BUFFALO (USA): Millions of people hunkered down in a freezer overnight and early in the morning to ride out the freezing storm that killed at least 18 people across the United States, trapping some residents inside houses with snow drifts and power cuts to several hundred thousand homes and businesses.
The magnitude of the storm was nearly unprecedented, stretching from the Great Lakes near Canada to the Rio Grande along the border with Mexico.
About 60% of the U.S. population faced some kind of winter weather advisory or warning, and temperatures dropped significantly below normal from east of the Rocky Mountains to Appalachia, the National Weather Service said. .
Some 1,346 domestic and international flights were canceled early Sunday, according to tracking site FlightAware.
Forecasters said a bomb cyclone – when atmospheric pressure drops very quickly during a strong storm – had developed near the Great Lakes, bringing blizzard conditions including high winds and snow.
The storm unleashed its full fury on Buffalo, with hurricane-force winds and snow causing whiteout conditions, crippling emergency response efforts – New York Governor Kathy Hochul said almost all of the city’s fire engines were blocked – and closing the airport until Monday, officials said.
The National Weather Service said the snow total at Buffalo Niagara International Airport stood at 43 inches (109 centimeters) as of 7 a.m. Sunday.
Freezing conditions and one-day power outages had Buffalonians scrambling Saturday to get out of their homes to any heated location. But with the city streets under a thick white blanket, that wasn’t an option for the likes of Jeremy Manahan, who charged his phone in his parked car after nearly 29 hours without power.
“There is a heated shelter, but that would be too far for me. I can’t drive, obviously, because I’m stuck,” Manahan said. “And you can’t stay outside for more than 10 minutes without getting frostbite.”
Mark Poloncarz, Erie County Manager, home to Buffalo, said ambulances were taking more than three hours to make a single trip to the hospital and the blizzard could be “the worst storm in our community’s history. “.
Two people died Friday in their suburban homes in Cheektawaga, New York, when emergency crews were unable to reach them in time to treat their health issues, he said, and another is died in Buffalo.
“We can’t just take everyone and take you to a warming center. We don’t have the capacity to do that,” Poloncarz said. “So many neighborhoods, especially in the city of Buffalo, are still impassable.”
Ditjak Ilunga of Gaithersburg, Maryland, was on his way to visit relatives in Hamilton, Ont., for Christmas with his daughters on Friday when their SUV was booby-trapped in Buffalo. Unable to get help, they spent hours with the engine running in the windswept and nearly buried vehicle.
At 4 a.m. Saturday, with their fuel nearly exhausted, Ilunga made a desperate choice to risk the howling storm to reach nearby shelter. He carried Destiny, 6, on his back while Cindy, 16, clutched their Pomeranian pup, following in his footsteps as they plodded through drifts.
“If I stay in this car, I’m going to die here with my children,” he recalls thinking, but believing they had to try. He cried when the family walked through the doors of the shelter. “It’s something I will never forget in my life.”
The storm knocked out power to communities from Maine to Seattle, and a major power grid operator warned 65 million people in the eastern United States of potential power outages.
But heat and lights were gradually being restored across the United States. According to poweroutage.us, fewer than 300,000 customers were without power as of 8 a.m. EDT Sunday — down from a peak of 1.7 million.
In North Carolina, fewer than 6,600 customers had no power, down from a peak of 485,000 or more. Utility officials said power outages would continue for the next few days.
Across the six New England states, about 121,300 customers were left without power on Sunday, with Maine still the hardest hit. Some utilities said power may not be restored for days.
Storm-related fatalities have been reported in recent days across the country: four dead in an Ohio Turnpike pileup involving about 50 vehicles; four motorists killed in separate collisions in Missouri and Kansas; Ohio utility worker electrocuted; a Vermont woman struck by a falling branch; a seemingly homeless man found amid sub-freezing Colorado temperatures; a woman who fell through the ice of the Wisconsin River.
In Mexico, migrants camped near the US border faced unusually cold temperatures as they awaited a US Supreme Court ruling on pandemic-era restrictions preventing many from seeking asylum.
Along Interstate 71 in Kentucky, Terry Henderson and her husband, Rick, weathered a 34-hour traffic jam in a rig equipped with a diesel heater, toilet and refrigerator after getting being found stranded trying to drive from Alabama to their Ohio home for Christmas.
“We should have stayed,” Terry Henderson said after they got back on track on Saturday.
Erie County’s Poloncarz tweeted late Saturday that 34.6 inches (about 88 centimeters) of snow had accumulated at Buffalo Airport and drifts were well over 6 feet (1.8 meters) in some areas.
Blizzard conditions were expected to ease early Sunday, he continued, but continued lake-effect snow was expected.
Vivian Robinson of the Spirit of Truth Urban Ministry in Buffalo said she and her husband hosted and cooked for 60-70 people, including stranded travelers and locals without power or heat, who spent Saturday night at the church. .
Many arrived with ice and snow stuck to their clothes, crying, their skin flushed from the single-digit temperatures. On Saturday evening, they prepared to spend Christmas together.
“It’s moving to see the injury that they thought they weren’t going to survive, and to see that we opened up the church, and it gave them a sense of relief,” Robinson said. “Those who are here really enjoy themselves. It will be a different Christmas for everyone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *