BUFFALO, N.Y. — Winter storm that hit Western New York last month is now blamed for two more deaths, bringing the total number of deaths in the area to 42.
Mark Poloncarz, the leader of Erie County, said on Tuesday that the medical examiner for Erie County confirmed that a woman in Buffalo and a man in Amherst both died because of the storm. Poloncarz says that the woman died because she didn’t get enough oxygen when the power went out, and the man died because he was hurt when he was found in a snowbank.
So far, we know that 41 people died in Erie County and one person died in Niagara County.
In Erie County, three people died because EMS took too long to get there because of the storm. Another 18 people died outside, four were found in cars, four died while snowblowing or shoveling snow, and 12 were found in their homes.
What You Need To Know
- The number of people who died in a blizzard before Christmas that shut down Buffalo, New York, and much of the country keeps going up as the area gets ready for more snow.
- According to the Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office, at least 39 people have died in Erie County.
- At least another two dozen deaths in other parts of the country were also blamed on the storm.
- The National Weather Service says that temperatures will slowly rise later this week, which will be a welcome change.
Buffalo’s roads reopened on Thursday, December 29, as officials continued to look for people who may have died or are stuck and in trouble because of last week’s blizzard.
Mayor Byron Brown said Thursday just after midnight that the ban on driving in New York’s second-most-populous city had been lifted.
Brown said at a news conference Wednesday night that “significant progress” had been made in getting rid of the snow. Major highways, suburban roads, and the Buffalo Niagara International Airport were all back open.
Still, Brown told people that if they didn’t have to, they shouldn’t drive.
The National Guard was going door-to-door to check on people who lost power, and as the snow melted and the weather got warmer, it was possible that they would find more victims. Officers from Buffalo and other police departments also looked for victims, sometimes using their own snowmobiles, trucks, and other tools.
Poloncarz said at a storm briefing on Thursday that some of the people who died have not yet been found.
“There are families in this town who still don’t know where a family member is. They’re missing,” he said.
The death toll from last week’s storm has already passed the number of people who died in the area’s famous Blizzard of 1977, and it keeps going up every day. This has led local officials to be asked about how they handled the storm. They said they were ready, but the weather was strange, even for a place where strong winter storms are common.
“The city did everything it could in the face of a historic snowstorm,” the mayor said on Wednesday.
Also, officials were keeping an eye on a forecast that called for rain later in the week as snow melted in temperatures close to or above 50 degrees (10 Celsius).
Even though the National Weather Service said any flooding would be small, state and local officials said they were still getting ready. Gov. Kathy Hochul said that if the state needed to, it was ready to send out nearly 800,000 sandbags and more than 300 pumps and generators to help with flooding.
During his briefing, Poloncarz said he was sorry for saying in public the day before that Buffalo’s snow removal efforts were too slow and even “embarrassing.”
Poloncarz said, “We’ve been dealing with a lot, including how the deaths are unfolding, identifying bodies, people who haven’t been identified yet, and new deaths that are just heartbreaking.” He also said that he was trying to get in touch with Brown to apologize. “I pretty much lost my mind.”
Brown had responded to Poloncarz’s complaints on Wednesday by saying that the city was “working hard, working around the clock” to clear the snow and was trying to work with other government agencies and the community.
All three of these people are Democrats.
A company that figures out how much damage natural disasters do said that the winter storm would cause insured losses of $5.4 billion in 42 states. Karen Clark & Co. said that storms caused the most damage in New York, Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Freezing temperatures, which can cause infrastructure problems and burst pipes, caused the vast majority of the damage.