The "snowstorm of the century" has claimed the lives of almost 50 people in the United States so far. There were 27 fatalities in the particularly affected district of Erie County in the state of New York, as administration official Mark Poloncarz reported on Twitter on Monday evening (local time). Three of the victims in the county were found inside a car and 14 outside, he said. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul warned the blizzard was "far from over" and urged residents to stay home.
According to the authorities, 49 people died in the snowstorm in nine states. In the hardest-hit city of Buffalo, there were hour-long power outages, and dead people were found in their cars or under snowdrifts. Rescue workers went from vehicle to vehicle in search of other fatalities or stranded drivers.
According to the website Flightaware.com, more than 15,000 domestic flights have been canceled in recent days due to the extreme weather conditions, more than 3,800 of them on Monday alone.
Even if the intensity of the storm subsides, it remains "dangerous to be outside," Gov. Hochul said during a visit to Buffalo. After up to one meter of snow had already fallen in parts of the state of New York, another 30 centimeters of fresh snow can be expected.
The western part of the state of New York, which is actually used to cold and storms, disappeared under meter high snow during the Christmas weekend. Polar temperatures have been prevailing there for the past week. More moderate weather is not expected until Tuesday.
Erie County Sheriff John Garcia called the blizzard the worst he had ever experienced. At times, the emergency services could not deploy because they had no sight. "It's heartbreaking when you get calls from families with kids saying they're freezing to death," he told CNN.
Buffalo's roads continued to be largely blocked by impressive amounts of snow on Monday. Pictures from the city center showed cars parked across the streets under mountains of snow.
Buffalo was temporarily cut off from the outside world over Christmas, and emergency services were unable to reach particularly affected areas. Front doors disappeared behind snow drifts up to three meters high, and the situation became life-threatening due to power failures in freezing temperatures.
Hochul dispatched around 200 members of the National Guard to Buffalo and the surrounding area, who brought hundreds of people out of snow-covered cars and houses without electricity to safety. According to the authorities, however, people were still cut off from the outside world.
Buffalo International Airport was scheduled to remain closed through Tuesday. Due to frozen substations, some of the residents can only expect electricity again on Tuesday.
The extreme weather conditions caused temperatures to drop below freezing in a total of 48 states over the weekend.