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As Buffalo begins to thaw, police check for victims house to house

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2022-12-28T17:51:31Z

Police and National Guard members were going door-to-door Wednesday to check on residents of some Buffalo neighborhoods following the deadly Christmas blizzard that dropped about 55 inches of snow (140 cm) on New York’s second largest city.

The storm driven by an arctic blast brought freezing temperatures as far south as the Mexican border, leaving scores dead nationwide including 34 in Buffalo and surrounding Erie County and one in Niagara County.

Erie County’s chief executive Mark Poloncarz said more dead could be found during the door-to-door wellness checks in neighborhoods that were without power for extended periods during the storm.

“We are fearful that there are people who are not doing well, or who may have perished,” Poloncarz said during a news briefing Wednesday.

Almost all electricity was restored by Wednesday morning and temperatures were warming as Buffalo continued to dig out.

About 75 front-end loaders were working around the clock to shovel tons of snow into about 120 dump trucks to be hauled to four city and county lots. The goal was to have at least one lane of traffic open on each street by Wednesday night, Poloncarz said.

A driving ban remained in effect for Buffalo with military and New York City police officers called in to wave cars off the road and turn away traffic trying to enter the city.

Only a trace of snow might fall on Buffalo and Western New York off the Great Lakes on Wednesday as temperatures will hit 40 degrees Fahrenheit, said Josh Weiss, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

“Most of the snow has ended, fortunately. They need a break,” Weiss said.

“In Buffalo there’s no forecast below zero into next week,” he said. “By the weekend it’ll be in the 50s.”

Weiss said that a warming trend has also begun for the eastern third of the United States and will extend past the new Year with temperatures remaining largely above freezing.

Melting snow presents a risk of flooding and about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch of rain is expected in Western New York on Friday and Saturday.

“We’re expecting a rapid melt, and regional flooding on creeks. Creeks will top out,” Erie County’s Poloncarz said.

Some of those who died in the storm in New York were found frozen in cars, others in snowbanks, while some died in medical emergencies such as cardiac arrest while shoveling snow.

“It’s a tragic loss of life, a gut punch,” Poloncarz said.

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