The extreme cold that has hit the United States for several days should begin to ease on Tuesday in the East and Midwest of the country, after the “blizzard of the century” which killed at least 49 people, including 27 in a single county in New York State, and caused transportation chaos.
“It’s far too early to say it’s over,” warned New York Governor Kathy Hochul, however, adding that up to 30 cm of snow should still fall. “It’s clearly the blizzard of the century,” she added at a press conference from the city of Buffalo, where she was born.
Even if the intensity of the storm is no longer that of recent days, it is “still dangerous to be outside”, she warned.
“Temperatures are expected to ease across the Midwest and East over the next few days,” the US Weather Service (NWS) confirmed in its first bulletin on Tuesday, warning of “locally hazardous traffic conditions.”
Since Wednesday evening, the United States has been hit by a winter storm of rare intensity, whose icy winds have caused heavy snowfall, especially in the Great Lakes region.
Tens of millions of Americans saw their Christmas weekend turned upside down by massive power outages, impassable roads and thousands of canceled flights, causing chaos at airports.
In total, more than 15,000 flights had to be canceled, including nearly 4,000 on Monday, according to tracking site Flightaware.com.
– Emergency state –
Western New York, accustomed to cold and storms, has been buried under meters of snow, suffering from polar temperatures since last week.
In Erie County, which includes Buffalo, the death toll rose to 27 Monday, according to Mark Poloncarz, county official. Some people have been found dead in their cars or outside, and others have died of cardiac arrest while trying to clear snow, while temperatures are still freezing, he added.
He said he expected more victims to be found gradually.
The total of deaths confirmed by authorities across nine US states is at least 49 dead. In Ohio, road accidents linked to these bad weather killed nine people, the Ohio State Highway Patrol confirmed to AFP.
“My heart is with those who have lost a loved one,” US President Joe Biden tweeted on Monday, indicating that he had spoken by telephone with the governor of New York, and promising to provide the necessary federal resources.
He said together with First Lady Jill Biden they were praying for those who lost loved ones in the storm, according to a statement from the White House.
According to the same source, Joe Biden also approved the declaration of a state of emergency in New York State.
” Heartbreaking “
Rescue teams evacuated hundreds of people from snow-covered cars and homes without power, but others could still be stranded in snow, authorities said.
“Please, unless you are part of the emergency services, do not drive,” asked Mr Poloncarz. “The conditions are bad. »
“What we’re doing today is getting people to doctors, nurses and hospitals,” county sheriff John Garcia told CNN on Monday. “The roads are finally starting to be passable because the winds have died down. »
During the height of the storm, rescuers were no longer able to reach people in distress, for example those stranded in their car or at home without electricity.
“It’s heartbreaking to have calls from families with kids saying they’re frozen,” county sheriff John Garcia told CNN.
Despite the perilous conditions, Buffalo police have rescued “hundreds” of people, said the city’s mayor, Byron Brown.
Electricity has been restored to more than 13,000 homes in the past 24 hours, Mark Poloncarz said Monday morning, but some will not be able to be connected to the network until Tuesday, he warned.
Buffalo International Airport remains closed through Tuesday and the traffic ban remains in effect in the city and much of Erie County.