At least 50 deaths have been linked to a severe storm that continues to batter the United States and Canada.
The United States has recorded 46 of the fatalities, with four more dead after a bus overturned on icy roads in the Canadian province of British Columbia.
Of the deaths in the United States, 18 are from New York state, where the city of Buffalo was hit hard by the blizzard, its cold and heavy “lake-effect” snow – the result of freezing air moving over the warmer waters of the lake.
“It’s not the Christmas any of us were hoping for”
The National Weather Service said nearly four feet of snow fell at Buffalo Airport on Sunday, and snow was falling at the rate of two to three inches per hour south of the city.
Victims of the storm in the area include people found stranded in cars, left frozen in whiteout conditions while would-be rescuers battled the weather to help.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul had said over the weekend that many of the state’s ambulances and fire trucks were themselves stuck in snow.
The Buffalo Police Department posted an online appeal asking snowmobile owners to participate in search and rescue efforts.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, “This is not the Christmas any of us hoped for or expected.”
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More than 55 million still under weather alerts
At worst, up to 1.8 million properties were without power across the United States, with thousands of flights canceled and delayed.
But the number of homes without power is now around 150,000, although more than 55 million Americans remained under wind chill alerts on Sunday.
In Canada, at least 140,000 homes are without electricity, most of them in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.
Four people were killed on Christmas Eve after a bus overturned in icy conditions on Highway 97C near Loon Lake, about 200 miles east of Vancouver.
The local health authority – Interior Health – told CBC Canada that 52 people had been sent to hospital and 36 needed further treatment.
As of the early afternoon of Christmas Day, eight people remained in hospital, two of them in serious condition.
Temperatures could drop to -43°C
The Meteorological Agency of Canada said temperatures will remain low in many parts of the country this week.
Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories is expected to drop to -28C (-18F) overnight but, with wind chill taken into account, it could be as low as -43C (-45F), posing a risk of frostbite within a few minutes.
Whitehorse in Canada’s Yukon Territory was expected to drop to -30C (-22F) with wind chill taken into account.