Buffalo airport to be closed at least until Tuesday as death toll rises in western New York
Buffalo, New York – Millions of people were unable to get home for Christmas as holiday travel was halted due to heavy snowfall and extremely cold weather across the nation caused by the arctic bomb cyclone. People living in the central parts of the country have experienced record breaking cold and blizzard conditions, but parts of New York are now experiencing heavy snowfall driven by the same powerful storm.
According to the weather forecast earlier this week, New York was among the states expected to be heavily hit by the storm during the Christmas weekend, prompting Governor Kathy Hochul to declare a State of Emergency for the entire State of New York on Thursday. As of Friday morning, more than 1 million people were left without power across 25 states due to wind gusts of 40–60 mph or higher raked the eastern third of the nation.
While in many parts across the country the situation is slowly getting back to normal on Sunday, Buffalo is hit by heavy snow, described as a major lake-effect snow event. According to the latest confirmed information, at least 12 people have died as a result of the storm in the Buffalo area so far, and Governor Kathy Hochul described the current situation as “devastating.” The number of deaths is expected to rise in the coming hours and days, reports from the field say.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz confirmed that the victims’ ages were 26 to 93, as six of them died in Buffalo, while the others were in Amherst and Cheektowaga. Some of the victims were found outside, one victim was found in a car, one was found inside, while some of them died of cardiac events while clearing snow. Thousands of residents are still without power in Buffalo, and it might remain that way until Tuesday.
“Substations froze. They were snowed under. We had a report that one substation had an 18-foot drift onto it,” Poloncarz said. “And when they got in the substation was frozen. They still don’t even know to the extent the damage that occurred in the substation.”
Due to the severe weather conditions, heavy snowfall, and low visibility resulting in safety concerns, the Buffalo Airport will be closed until Tuesday, the airport officials confirmed earlier today on Twitter. After 48 hours of snowfall with rates up to 3 inches per hour, a driving ban continues for Erie County on Sunday. Sheriff’s deputies have conducted more than 50 rescues throughout the storm using snowmobiles and special operations.
According to the Northeast Regional Climate Center, a total of 29 people died as a result of the famous blizzard of 1977. According to Governor Kathy Hochul, this year’s storm is much worse compared to that one because of the intensity and ferocity of the winds, and this storm will be talked about for generations.
“We have surpassed the scale of that storm,” Governor Kathy Hochul said Sunday evening about the blizzard of 1977. “This will go down in history as the most devastating storm in Buffalo’s long, storied history of having battled many battles, many major storms,” she added.
Gov. Hochul said Sunday evening that after speaking with the White House, her request for a disaster declaration would be granted. Poloncarz also confirmed that he had already contacted the White House and sought federal help.