Brutal storm keeping frigid grip on much of Northeast as Buffalo struggles to cope

Brutal storm keeping frigid grip on much of Northeast as Buffalo struggles to cope

Deadly storm leaves many trapped and stranded

Deadly storm leaves many trapped and stranded 02: 39

Buffalo, N.Y. — The deep freeze from a deadly winter storm that walloped much of the United States will continue into the early part of the week, forecasters say, as people in western New York deal with massive snow drifts that snarled emergency vehicles and travelers across the country see cancelled flights and dangerous roads.

The massive storm has killed at least 38 people across the United States and is expected to claim more lives after trapping some residents inside houses and knocking out power to tens of thousands of homes and businesses.

The extreme weather stretched from the Great Lakes near Canada to the Rio Grande along the border with Mexico. About 60% of the U.S. population faced some sort of winter weather advisory or warning, and temperatures plummeted drastically below normal from east of the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachians.

Winter storm hits Buffalo, New York
An Ambulance is left stranded on the road following a winter storm that hit the Buffalo region in Amherst, N.Y., on Dec. 25, 2022. STRINGER / REUTERS

 The National Weather Service said Sunday the frigid arctic air “enveloping much of the eastern half of the U.S. will be slow to moderate.”

That’s especially unwelcome news for Buffalo, which saw hurricane-force winds and snow causing whiteout conditions that paralyzed emergency response efforts and took at least 10 lives in the vicinity. They were among at least 17 killed by the storm in New York state.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, who called out the National Guard, said almost every fire truck in Buffalo  was stranded Saturday and implored people Sunday to respect an ongoing driving ban in the region. Officials said the airport would be shut through Tuesday morning. The National Weather Service said the snow total at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport stood at 43 inches at 7 a.m. Sunday.

Huge snowdrifts nearly covered cars and there were thousands of houses, some adorned in unlit holiday displays, dark from a lack of power.

With snow swirling down untouched and impassable streets, forecasters warned an additional 1 to 2 feet of snow was possible in some areas through Monday morning amid wind gusts of 40 mph. Police said Sunday evening that there were two “isolated” instances of looting during the storm.

Ploughs get stuck during snow in Buffalo
Ploughs get stuck during snow in downtown Buffalo, N.Y. on Dec. 25, 2022, in this screen grab obtained from a social media video. TWITTER / @TROYATHY

Two people died in their suburban Cheektowaga, New York, homes Friday when emergency crews couldn’t reach them in time to treat their medical conditions. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said 10 more people died there during the storm, including six in Buffalo, and warned there may be more dead.

“Some were found in cars, some were found on the street in snowbanks,” Poloncarz said. “We know there are people who have been stuck in cars for more than 2 days.”

CBS Buffalo affiliate WIVB-TV quotes him as saying, “I don’t want to say this is going to be it, because that would be fallacy for me to say that.”  

Freezing conditions and power outages had Buffalonians scrambling to get to anywhere with heat amid what Hochul called the longest sustained blizzard conditions ever in the city. But with streets under a thick blanket of white, that wasn’t an option for people like Jeremy Manahan, who charged his phone in his parked car after almost 29 hours without electricity.

“There’s one warming shelter, but that would be too far for me to get to. I can’t drive, obviously, because I’m stuck,” Manahan said. “And you can’t be outside for more than 10 minutes without getting frostbit.”

Winter storm hits Buffalo, New York
A man clears snow from his driveway on Dedc. 25, 2022 following a winter storm that hit the Buffalo region in Amherst, N.Y. BRENDAN MCDERMID / REUTERS

Ditjak Ilunga of Gaithersburg, Maryland, was on his way to visit relatives in Hamilton, Ontario, for Christmas with his daughters Friday when their SUV was trapped in Buffalo. Unable to get help, they spent hours with the engine running, buffeted by wind and nearly buried in snow.

By 4 a.m. Saturday, their fuel nearly gone, Ilunga made a desperate choice to risk the howling storm to reach a nearby shelter. He carried 6-year-old Destiny on his back while 16-year-old Cindy clutched their Pomeranian puppy, following his footprints through drifts.

“If I stay in this car I’m going to die here with my kids,” Ilunga recalled thinking. He cried when the family walked through the shelter doors. “It’s something I will never forget in my life.”

Travelers’ weather woes continued, with hundreds of flight cancellations already and more expected after a bomb cyclone – when atmospheric pressure drops very quickly in a strong storm – developed near the Great Lakes, stirring up blizzard conditions, including heavy winds and snow.

The storm knocked out power in communities from Maine to Seattle. But heat and lights were steadily being restored across the U.S. According to, some 59,000 customers across the country were without power as of 6 a.m. ET Monday – down from a peak of 1.7 million. Most of those still experiencing blackouts were in Maine and New York state.

Concerns about rolling blackouts across eastern states subsided Sunday after PJM Interconnection said its utilities could meet the day’s peak electricity demand. The mid-Atlantic grid operator had called for its 65 million consumers to conserve energy amid the freeze Saturday.

Some 1,400 U.S, flights had already been cancelled as of 6: 15 a.m. ET, according to

Storm-related deaths were reported in recent days all over the country: 12 in Erie County, New York, ranging in age from 26 to 93 years old, and another in Niagara County where a 27-year-old man was overcome by carbon monoxide after snow blocked his furnace; 10 in Ohio, including an electrocuted utility worker and those killed in multiple car crashes; six motorists killed in crashes in Missouri, Kansas and Kentucky; a Vermont woman struck by a falling branch; an apparently homeless man found amid Colorado’s subzero temperatures; and a woman who fell through Wisconsin river ice.

In Jackson, Mississippi, city officials on Christmas Day announced residents must now boil their drinking water due to water lines bursting in the frigid temperatures. 

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