At least 25 people have died in western New York’s Erie County as a result of a devastating winter storm that left much of the eastern United States in a deep freeze, regional officials said Monday.
“In addition to the 13 confirmed deaths yesterday, the Erie County Department of Health medical examiner’s office has confirmed an additional 12 deaths, bringing the total for the blizzard to 25 deaths county-wide,” Erie County executive Mark Poloncarz said in a press briefing.
He warned that, with an additional foot of snow (32 centimeters) possible on Monday, residents needed to bunker down and stay in place.
“This is not the end yet,” he said. “We are not there.”
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The new figure brings the nationwide death toll related to the days-long storm to 47 people across nine states.
Current storm more intense
Fierce cold continued to blanket much of the country, upending Christmas holiday travel plans for millions.
The extreme weather forced the cancellation of more than 15,000 flights in recent days including at least 1,600 on Monday, according to tracking site Flightaware.com.
Western New York, lying on the eastern shore of Lake Erie, is accustomed to dealing with some of the country’s worst snowstorms. But this, Poloncarz said, was of a historic nature.
He said the final toll might well surpass that of the historic blizzard of 1977, adding, “I’m heartbroken about the deaths.”
That earlier blizzard is blamed for 29 deaths, but while it lasted a day longer, the current storm has been more intense, Poloncarz said.
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“It’s a very tenuous situation,” he added, with large numbers of cars and even buses abandoned along roads, making passage difficult for emergency vehicles.
“The city of Buffalo is impassable in most areas.”