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Winter Storm Updates: Blizzard Conditions, Arctic Freeze Sweeps Buffalo

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Brutal winter storm conditions that continue to batter most of the United States paralyzed one of the cities most accustomed to snow – Buffalo – overnight and Saturday, with hundreds of people trapped in vehicles in the cold icy and blown snow, and there is no way for rescuers to reach them.

Two people died in separate incidents at their homes when first responders were unable to reach them. There is no emergency service for much of the area, said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz, which includes Buffalo. A doctor was counseling a woman over the phone who was giving birth to her sister’s baby at home. First responders at a hospital were unable to get to a baby in need of help a few blocks away. People were stranded overnight in restaurants as well as in their homes, he said.

“It was a very, very bad night in our community,” Poloncarz said. “Fortunately, the sun is up.”

“This could turn out to be the worst storm in our community’s history, surpassing the famous 1977 blizzard in its ferocity,” he added.

He said emergency response is unavailable in about two-thirds of the area affected by the blizzard. The emergency vehicles themselves were stuck in the snow. “It’s not something we’re proud of,” Poloncarz said. More than 27.8 inches of snow fell at Buffalo Airport.

He warned people not to call 911 or an emergency hotline unless they were having life-threatening seizures. Abandoned vehicles caused additional problems, and it was feared that snow-clogged exhaust vents could cause carbon monoxide or natural gas exhaust to back up into homes.

Why This Blizzard Could Be Buffalo’s Worst Ever

govt. Kathy Hochul (D) ordered the national guard to respond, and units were en route to the most affected parts of the region. She and another official said many rescues were carried out overnight in the Buffalo area, in some cases with snow plows blocking motorists from their cars and taking them to warming centers.

About 73,000 people were without power in New York state, Hochul said, half of them in the Buffalo area. Buffalo airport would be closed until Monday morning, Hochul said, and she warned people hoping to get there for Christmas not to try driving either.

Snow was expected to continue falling in the Erie County area throughout the day and possibly into early Christmas Day, said Poloncarz.

While Buffalo may have seen the worst of the storm, few parts of the country have been unaffected by the cold, ice, snow and winds that have swept across the country over the past two days. Temperatures were below zero in Houston on Saturday and sub-zero wind chills swept through much of the Midwest.

Four people were dead after a pile-up of 46 cars on the Ohio Turnpike on Friday, authorities said.

Power was cut for at least 1.5 million people on Friday and temperatures plummeted, sometimes at record speeds. About 1.1 million people were still without power as of noon Eastern time Saturday, according to PowerOutage.uswith hundreds of thousands in Tennessee and Kentucky.

Duke Energy said high power demand due to freezing temperatures caused temporary power outages for nearly 340,000 people in the Carolinas on Christmas Eve. PJM, a power grid operator that operates in 13 states from Illinois to Virginia as well as DC, urge consumers to save energy until Christmas morning.

fedex said saturday that inclement weather is causing disruptions at its Memphis and Indianapolis hubs and that delays could be expected for deliveries through Monday.

Air travel has been hampered by thousands of canceled flights. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Twitter that around 20% of Friday’s flights were cancelled. Air travel was slowly returning, but he urged patience.

Blizzards have strangled the Great Lakes region. Even winter-stricken cities such as Chicago and Detroit have closed tourist attractions and urged people to stay indoors.

The storm that the National Weather Service described as “once per generationbegan on Thursday and is expected to last through Christmas weekend, eventually carving out a 2,000 mile path across much of the country. The danger zone stretched from Canada to Mexico and from Washington State to Florida.

In Michigan, a Detroit television station reported that an 82-year-old woman was found dead outside her Bath Township assisted living facility on Friday morning.

At the Pine Ridge Native American Reservation in South Dakota, a tribal leader reported people were trapped by ice and 30 inches of snow, burning clothes for warmth as firewood deliveries couldn’t get through .

The conditions “pose an imminent threat to the operations of tribal government, to public safety and to the health of tribal members who currently do not have access to medical care, such as dialysis, ambulance service for medical care in ‘crisis response,’ said Oglala Sioux Tribe President Frank Star. Comes Out wrote in an email.

In Kentucky, swirling winds and plummeting temperatures caused a series of traffic accidents that led to mass backups of up to 14 miles on US 127. The freezing conditions sent dozens of cars careening , and at least one semi-trailer jackknifed, as slowdowns and road closures spread across the state.

Following the crashes, only one lane was open on Interstate 71 south, where state officials reported hundreds of travelers were stranded on a six-mile stretch. The state said in a Twitter post that emergency officials were working “to get them off the road and warm them up.”

“I know it was tough for a lot of people, but we did wellness checks on every vehicle on I-71 in this backup,” the Kentucky governor said. Andy Beshear said at a press conference Saturday morning. “No tragedies or serious medical injuries. He must have helped a lot of people. I know a lot of people were scared. It was a large tractor-trailer knife that took a long time to clear. »

Beshear said there have been 43,000 power outages and the state has asked residents to reduce their electricity usage to minimize the risk of outages. The governor issued an executive order lowering the speed limit in some areas to 45mph and urged people to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary.

As temperatures rose, the outlook improved. State officials said on Saturday morning the roads were being gradually cleared, and Emergency Management Director Jeremy Slinker said he was “hoping to turn the corner today.”

In New York, Hochul said water poured onto the streets of Far Rockaway and other sections of Queens Bay, then froze as the rains receded and temperatures dropped, creating ice hazards.

She told a Saturday briefing that the “true” temperature is not above zero anywhere in the state. The storm in western New York “could become one of the worst in history,” the governor said, attributing the worsening impact to the effects of climate change.

Nonetheless, New York airports were open and trains and subways were operating, Hochul said.

Emily Wax-Thibodeaux, Jason Samenow, Danielle Paquette and Emmanuel Felton contributed to this report.

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