A severe winter storm swept across the United States just a few days before Christmas. Deemed a “once in a lifetime” weather event, the Arctic blast brought record-low temperatures, dangerous winds, and mounds of lake-effect snow. As of Tuesday, December 27, it also resulted in the deaths of more than 60 people.
Thirty-four of these casualties were recorded in western New York state. The winter storm was one of the most severe weather disasters in the area’s history and left the region covered in up to 49 inches of snow. Those who lost their lives have been found in their homes, cars, and snowbanks. Some perished while shoveling snow in the fatally cold temperatures.
Sadly, the death toll is expected to rise. Power outages leaving scores of people without heat and dangerous driving conditions are factors that could lead to more loss of lives. In the hard-struck Buffalo metropolitan area, crews are trying to clear roads that are still totally blocked so emergency vehicles can get through.
The National Guard is being dispatched as residents ignore the city’s driving restrictions. According to Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, “People are ignoring the driving ban. I don’t know what to say at this point.” He further pleaded, “I’m begging: Stay home.”
This is sage advice, considering the National Weather Service in Buffalo is calling for even more snow on Tuesday northeast of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The forecast is 6 to 12 inches in and around Buffalo and a whopping 1-2 feet for Jefferson and Lewis counties.
Wednesday, December 28, could offer some relief as a warm front will bring in above-freezing temperatures. Tom Kines, a senior meteorologist at Accuweather, is predicting that the hard-hit area will see highs in the 40s and possibly even the 50s. With no more snowstorms in the forecast, this mild weather is welcome news for the region.
However, some unwelcome news to thousands of holiday travelers is that more than 2800 flights have been canceled. Even as temperatures rise, the resulting fog could further impact air travel.