US winter storm death toll rises as bad weather drags on

2022-12-28 22:18:29
US winter storm death toll rises as bad weather drags on

A powerful winter storm that slammed North America has claimed more lives in the US state of New York, local officials say.

At least 34 people have died in Erie County, which includes the city of Buffalo, county executive Mark Poloncarz said on Wednesday.

Authorities are still trying to identify three of the victims.

The storm that swept across the US over the holiday weekend has killed at least 60 people in eight states.

There have now been more fatalities in Erie County in the last few days than during the infamous Buffalo blizzard of 1977. Twenty-nine people died in that storm, according to the National Weather Service.

"It's a horrible storm with too many deaths," Mr Poloncarz said during a press conference on Wednesday morning.

But conditions in some of the hardest-hit regions in the US - including New York - are starting to improve.

In Erie County, fewer than 1,000 households are now without power, and 95% of residents should have power restored by the end of the day, Mr Poloncarz said.

The city of Buffalo - which got more than four feet (1.2m) of snow - has made progress clearing roads, county officials said. At least 65% of city streets have at least one lane available for passage, though a driving ban remains in effect due to dangerous conditions, Mr Poloncarz said.

And the local Buffalo Niagara International Airport reopened 11:00 local time (16:00 GMT) after closing last Friday, while the city's rail service is running again on a limited schedule.

The US National Guard is going door-to-door in neighbourhoods in the county that lost power to conduct wellness checks as officials are "fearful" that some living alone may have perished during the storm, Mr Poloncarz said.

With temperatures rising and snow beginning to melt, the county is now preparing for the possibility of flooding, the county executive said.

Elsewhere in the US and Canada, residents are still dealing with the effects of the deadly winter storm as well as new dangerous weather systems.

States in the western US and the Rocky Mountains region have experienced heavy winds and rain as a result of an "atmospheric river", a long narrow channel of moisture in the atmosphere that can cause heavy precipitation.

The "deep and fast-moving storm system" could cause flash floods and thunderstorms and is expected to "linger into the upcoming weekend", according to the Weather Prediction Center.

The system has already caused flooding in the western states of Washington and Oregon, where more than 80,000 customers were without power as of Wednesday morning, according to outage tracker

The Washington state capital of Olympia saw a record high tide of 18.4 feet (5.6 metres), which brought marine life into the city's streets, according to officials.

Heavy snow is also forecast for the mountainous regions of Sierra Nevada, Cascades and the Rockies as moist air flows eastward, the Weather Prediction Center said.

Some Canadian residents, meanwhile, are still battling power cuts as a result of the storm, including about 19,000 customers in the province of Quebec, public utility provider Hydro-Québec said on Wednesday.

In Ontario, more than 10,000 customers were still without power, according to power supplier Hydro One.



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