BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo residents hovered around space heaters, hunted for cars buried in snow drifts and looked for more victims Monday, after 28 people died in one of the worst weather-related disasters ever to hit western New York.
The rest of the United States also was reeling from the ferocious winter storm, with at least another two dozen deaths reported in other parts of the country.
Up to 9 more inches of snow could fall in some areas of western New York through Tuesday, the National Weather Service said.
“This is not the end yet,” said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, calling the blizzard “the worst storm probably in our lifetime,” even for an area accustomed to punishing snow.
Some people, he noted, were stranded in their cars for more than two days.
President Biden said his prayers were with the victims’ families, and offered federal assistance Monday to the hard-hit state.
Those who lost their lives around Buffalo were found in cars, homes and snowbanks. Some died while shoveling snow, others when emergency crews could not respond in time to medical crises.
Melissa Carrick, a doula, said the blizzard forced her to coach a pregnant client through childbirth by telephone. An ambulance crew transported the woman to a hospital about 45 minutes south of Buffalo because none of the closer hospitals were reachable.
“In any other normal Buffalo storm? I would just go because that’s what you do – just drive through the snow,” she said. “But you knew this was different.”
Scientists say the climate change crisis may have contributed to the intensity of the storm. That’s because the atmosphere can carry more water vapor, which acts as fuel, said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Victor Gensini, a meteorology professor at Northern Illinois University, likened a single weather event to an “at-bat” — and the climate as your “batting average.”
“It’s hard to say,” Serreze said. “But are the dice a little bit loaded now? Absolutely.”
The blizzard roared across western New York Friday and Saturday. With many grocery stores in the Buffalo area closed and driving bans in place, some people pleaded on social media for donations of food and diapers.
“It was like looking at a white wall for 14 to 18 hours straight,” Poloncarz, the county official, said.
Relief is coming later this week, as forecasts call for temperatures to slowly rise, said Ashton Robinson Cook, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Cook said the bomb cyclone — when atmospheric pressure drops very quickly in a strong storm — has weakened. It developed near the Great Lakes, stirring up blizzard conditions including heavy winds and snow.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul toured the aftermath in Buffalo — her hometown — on Monday, calling the blizzard “one for the ages.” Almost every fire truck in the city became stranded Saturday, she said.