Editor’s note: This page summarizes the news for Tuesday, December 27. For the latest on the Buffalo snowstorm and other weather news, read our Wednesday, December 28 updates here.
More snow fell in Buffalo on Tuesday after a historic and brutal winter storm buried the area and pushed the death toll up as the blizzard became the area’s deadliest storm in more than four decades.
Already overwhelmed by a historic death toll, Widespread power outages and a driving ban enforced by military police, western New York saw another inch of snow, the National Weather Service said.
“It’s not the end yet,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, calling the blizzard “probably the worst storm of our lifetimes.”
The storm system, which began before Christmas, hit Buffalo with over 50 inches of snow in recent days. As snow buried the city, conditions went from bad to worse with freezing temperatures and extreme winds – with gusts measured at more than 70 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
Poloncarz confirmed the county’s storm-related death toll rose to 31 as of Tuesday night, with the dead found in cars, homes and snow banks. The toll surpassed the number of deaths seen during the historic 1977 blizzard – considered the worst storm in the region’s history after killing 29 people in an area known for its harsh winters.
A driving ban remained in effect in the city on Tuesday, and National Guard military police were sent in to manage traffic as many residents defy the ban, Poloncarz said. Crews were working to clear roads that are still blocked to create lanes for emergency vehicles.
“People just ignore the driving ban. I don’t know what to say at this point,” Poloncarz said. “I beg: stay home.”
Conditions across the country weren’t much better with fierce winter conditions trapping people in homes from Maine to Washington state and causing mass flight cancellations, with a rising death toll in the US from more than 50.
Storm exceeds death toll in 1977 Buffalo area blizzard
The growing death toll in the Buffalo area reached a grim milestone on Tuesday after surpassing the death toll in the 1977 blizzard – widely considered the region’s worst storm in recent history.
The January 1977 blizzard killed 29 people in four days, including 12 who were found frozen in stalled cars, the Associated Press reported.
The storm featured surprisingly little snowfall, only about 12 inches in Buffalo, but brought sustained deadly cold temperatures to the region for weeks. The area experienced blizzard winds for nine straight hours and had zero visibility for 13 straight hours.
Powerful winds instead blew loose snow from previous storms this winter from frozen Lake Erie onto land, creating huge snowdrifts and completely burying homes and cars.
“[The 1977] The storm is the benchmark storm for the Buffalo area,” AccuWeather senior meteorologist Brian Thompson told USA TODAY. “This storm certainly appears to have become the deadliest storm in the Buffalo area.
Thompson noted decades of blizzards across the United States that claimed hundreds of lives, including the 1993 Storm of the Century, which killed more than 300 people in more than a dozen states. It is considered the second costliest winter storm on record, according to federal weather records.
“You don’t think these winter storms can kill that many people, but they’re just as deadly,” Thompson added.
‘The worst could be behind them’: a thaw could arrive on Wednesday
Some relief is in sight: On Wednesday, a warm front is expected to move across north-central New York, raising temperatures above freezing, say the forecasters.
The warming will mark the beginning of the end for miserable freezing conditions in western New York, Thompson. Snow is not in the immediate forecast and temperatures are expected to rise, remaining in the high 40s through next week.
“It looks like the worst is behind them,” Thompson said.
As temperatures rise, forecasters and local officials have noted a possible threat of flooding with the combination of melting snow and possible rain. Thompson said minor flooding was possible, but temperatures in the 40s through next week would allow for a “slow burn” of the more than 50 inches of snow that has fallen over the past four days. He added that conditions would remain generally dry, although some showers over the weekend could lead to isolated minor flooding.
Conditions across the country are also expected to warm, with some areas recording temperatures 10 to 20 degrees above average, Thompson said.
“It will be a sea change, which is good and I guess welcome,” he said.
Flight cancellations surge, Biden vows to hold airlines ‘accountable’
More than 3,000 flights were canceled within, to or from the United States Tuesday around 8 a.m. Eastern Time, according to FlightAware.
Flight cancellations by multiple airlines due to the storm have left thousands of travelers stranded at airports across the country.
President Joe Biden said his administration would hold airlines accountable for mass cancellations and directed travelers to the Department of Transportation to see if they were eligible for compensation. The Department for Transportation said it would look in particular at cancellations from Southwest Airlines, which accounted for the majority of disruptions.
Airlines could see more problems later in the week as temperatures rise east of the Rocky Mountains and fog becomes a bigger factor, Kines said.
“It will be something to watch as the week progresses,” he said. “This time we won’t have to deal with snow, but fog could be a problem for those traveling.
PENDING FLIGHTS:Nearly 2/3 of Southwest Airlines flights are canceled on Tuesday. Here’s what travelers need to know.
Storm and record cold are wreaking havoc across much of the country
The storm and record cold were felt across much of the country over the weekend, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses, canceling thousands of flights and dragging out crowds of others problems.
The major cities of the South experienced water issues from storms, including in Memphis, Nashville, Atlanta and Charleston, South Carolina. Much of Memphis and Jackson, Mississippi, remain under boil water advisories due to broken water pipes, loss of system pressure and burst pipes in some areas. In Ohio, authorities assessed water damage to the Statehouse after a pipe burst in freezing weather.
On the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Reservation in South Dakota, snowmobiles were dispatched Tuesday to reach residents after food boxes were delivered by helicopter and trucks over the weekend, the tribe said.
Even Florida experienced freezing temperatures over the weekend, dropping as low as 27 degrees in central Florida.
At least 50 deaths nationwide are attributed to the storm, including in car crashes, heart events while shoveling snow, and at least one death from carbon monoxide poisoning inside a home.
Authorities made several arrests amid looting in Buffalo during the storm, local media reported. Social media has been flooded with photos and videos showing people inside stores with shattered windows in Erie County.
A video showed almost bare shelves at several dollar stores in the area with food and clothing strewn across the floor. Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told WIVB News that 4 officers made multiple arrests and helped at least one store board after vandals broke in.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown called the looters “absolutely reprehensible”.
“I don’t know how these people can even live with themselves, how they can look in the mirror,” Brown said. “They are the lowest of the lows.”
As the storm and its impact on Western New York were unprecedented for residents, New York Governor Kathy Hochul warned that the state and country should expect and prepare for more of this. type of time.
“Historic storms are no longer historic for us,” she said Monday. “It’s become a way of life in our state and it’s a result of climate change.”
Homeless man dies in cold Louisiana trying to find family
A 57-year-old homeless man who died of exposure to cold weather on Christmas Day was trying to travel from Louisiana to Tennessee to join family members, officials said.
Charles Wilson Ligon Jr. was found dead Monday by hunters in southern Mississippi. Ligon was dressed in a light jacket and had cash and a cellphone, the Times-Picayune reported.
“We were able to notify next of kin, and it was apparent the family was trying to work with him to get him back to Tennessee. But he couldn’t afford to get a bus ticket or get himself wired,” Pearl River County Coroner Derek Turnage told the Biloxi Sun Herald. “He didn’t have up-to-date ID, which is why he couldn’t do these things. The family had trouble getting him to come.
Ligon left Slidell, Louisiana in mid-December without a vehicle and was living in the woods at the time of his death, Turnage said.
Buffalo, which sits right next to Lake Erie, therefore ranks among the snowiest major cities.
During this week’s storm, the air mass over Lake Erie was “extremely cold” over the lake’s relatively warm waters, with winds that created a snowband dumping heavy snow for days, according to Dan Pydynowski, senior meteorologist at Accuweather.
“Lake Erie and Ontario just produced very intense lake effect snow,” he said. “Not only are you dealing with heavy snowfall, but you are dealing with blizzard conditions. … All of these factors have combined to create a very intense outbreak which is finally subsiding now.”
Contributor: Associated Press; Rachel Wegner, Nashville Tennessean