Winter Storm Elliott death toll climbs to 56 as thousands still without power in -40 temperatures

Bomb cyclone death toll climbs as emergency response efforts are paralysed by blizzards

Bevan Hurley
Tuesday 27 December 2022 06:34 GMT
Freezing monster storm across US claims at least 34 lives

The death toll from an “epic, once-in-a-lifetime” storm that has wrought havoc across the United States rose to at least 56, with the Buffalo area of New York state being one of the hardest-hit places.

Winter storm Elliott has brought temperatures as low as -50F (-45C) across a vast swathe of North America, from the Great Lakes near Canada to Arizona.

More than a million households were without power on Christmas Day according to, while the travel plans of tens of thousands of people were disrupted by cancelled flights and dangerous roads.

In Buffalo, at least 27 people died after hurricane-force winds and snow caused whiteout conditions that paralysed emergency response efforts. Up to nine more inches of snow is expected to fall in some areas of western New York through Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

Almost every emergency vehicle in Buffalo became stranded on Saturday, while some drivers were trapped in their cars for two days.

Police said there had been two “isolated” instances of looting in the city during the storm, according to Associated Press.

President Joe Biden issued a federal emergency declaration for New York state, authorising government assistance to bolster recovery efforts. “We stand ready to make sure they have the resources they need to get through this,” Mr Biden said in a tweet.

New York governor Kathy Hochul described the situation in Buffalo as like a “war zone”, calling it an “epic, once-in-a-lifetime” disaster that ranked alongside a crippling 1977 blizzard that killed nearly 30 people.

Hurricane-force winds and snow caused whiteout conditions in Buffalo, New York (AP)

“This is a war with mother nature, and she has been hitting us with everything she has,” the governor said on Monday.

“This will go down in history as the most devastating storm in Buffalo’s long, storied history of having battled many battles, many, many major storms,” Ms Hochul added.

With snow continuing to fall on top of more than 4 feet dumped on Buffalo since the blizzard took shape on Friday, New York’s second-largest city stood as ground zero.

Deaths were recorded in at least 12 states: Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Wisconsin, according to NBC News.

Governor Kathy Hochul described the situation in Buffalo as resembling a ‘war zone’ (AP)

The National Weather Service warned that a “band of heavy lake-effect snow” was producing an additional 2 to 3 inches of hourly snowfall in a Monday morning bulletin.

The “lake effect” is caused when freezing air passes over warmer lake water, creating intense snowfall.

Winter Storm Elliott has brought record-low temperatures to many places, including Bozeman, Montana, which reached a bone-chilling -43F.

An estimated 60 per cent of the US population was under some form of weather warning on Christmas Day, according to the Associated Press.

Snow blankets Cheektowaga, New York, as millions of people hunker down amid freezing temperatures (AP)

The freezing temperatures are likely to linger for several days across the eastern United States, according to the National Weather Service.

“The life-threatening cold temperatures and in combination with dangerous wind chills will create a potentially life-threatening hazard for travellers that become stranded, individuals that work outside, livestock and domestic pets,” it said.

The western US will experience a “more active, stormy pattern”, with the potential to bring flash-flooding and strong winds in parts of California and Washington State.

The weather service’s Chicago bureau said the cold and snow “will become distant memories later this week” as high temperatures rise into the 40s and 50s (between 4C and 15C).

More than 19,643 US airline flights were delayed and at least 5,779 were cancelled, according to the flight tracking service FlightAware. Approximately 20,000 flights were cancelled across the long weekend, leaving thousands of travellers stranded at airports over Christmas.

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