Photos and videos on social media have shown homes frozen solid as a devastating winter storm continues to batter Buffalo, New York.
The Arctic blast has hit the Buffalo area especially hard, where the death toll has reportedly risen to seven people as hurricane-force winds and blizzard conditions crippled emergency response efforts and shut down the city’s international airport.
At least 28,000 customers in Erie County, home to Buffalo, were without electricity as of Sunday morning, according to poweroutage.us.
Mark Poloncarz, the county’s executive, said on Twitter that power may not be completely restored in Buffalo until Monday morning.
“There are power lines down, but the major issue for the large scale power outages are frozen and inoperable substations,” Poloncarz tweeted early on Christmas Day.
“Erie County, NYS, and the City of Buffalo have this substation access as our first priority.”
The freezing conditions and power outages had people desperate to get out of their homes on Sunday.
But photos and videos shared on social media showed the storm had left some homes encased in ice.
One person posted a video showing how several feet of snow was preventing their front door from opening. “Guess I’m using the window to get outside this morning,” they wrote alongside the clip.
Another Twitter post featured photos showing cottages on Lake Erie completely covered in ice following the storm.
Poloncarz on Sunday warned people not to go to Buffalo to try to rescue loved ones.
“If the storm has subsided near you and there is an open road, do not plan on going into the City of Buffalo to try and rescue family/friends. Most of Buffalo is still impassable. Just because it looks open near you, doesn’t mean you will be able to get very far a few miles away,” he said in a tweet.
The National Weather Service’s office in Buffalo said the snow total at Buffalo Niagara International Airport stood at 43 inches at around 7 a.m. on Sunday.
“A heavy lake effect snow band” would continue to affect parts of Chautauqua, southern Erie and Wyoming counties on Sunday morning, the NWS said in a special weather statement. Snow is falling at up to three inches an hour, accompanied by winds of up to 35 mph, the NWS said.
“Use extra caution if you must travel into or through this lake effect snow band,” it added. “Rapid changes in visibility and potentially slick roads may lead to accidents.”
Poloncarz on Sunday said officials are working with President Joe Biden and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on a federal disaster declaration.
Hochul on Friday deployed the National Guard to Erie County to assist residents, particularly those who had emergency medical appointments and ned help traveling.
“The blinding snow, the zero visibility, absolute whiteouts, it may go down as one of the worst in history,” Hochul said of conditions in her hometown of Buffalo during a briefing on Christmas Eve. “It is life-threatening, what is going on as we speak in Buffalo.”
The National Weather Service and officials in Buffalo have been contacted for further comment.