BUFFALO | As the United States barely lifts its head after the “blizzard of the century” that left at least 50 people dead across the country, the harrowing stories of people stranded by the storm are starting to come out.
• To read also: Blizzard in Buffalo: a 22-year-old woman dies after being stuck for more than 18 hours in her car
• Read also: Americans froze to death during the storm
• To read also: Historic blizzard: Buffalo buried under feet of snow
The extreme cold that has hit the United States for several days has been accompanied by heavy snowfall and strong winds, particularly in the Great Lakes region, causing chaos in road and air transport and forcing the cancellation of thousands of flights around Christmas.
At several airports, the same scenes: hundreds of people queuing after their trip was canceled and luggage piled up.
These severe weather conditions described as “once in a generation” are expected to begin to ease Tuesday over the East and Midwest.
But they have already killed at least 50 people, including 28 in Erie County, which includes the city of Buffalo, New York. A higher toll is to be feared, as relief progresses and clears.
“Unfortunately, police expect this number (deaths) to increase,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown tweeted.
"We're recovering from one of the worst storms we've ever seen, unfortunately with the highest death toll we've ever had in a storm," Erie County official Mark Poloncarz said Tuesday. of a press conference. “We will never forget that,” he added.
In Buffalo, a 22-year-old woman trapped in snow died in her car, according to her family. A video sent by the victim and posted by his sister shows him rolling down the window of his vehicle, surrounded by snow during the blizzard.
Also in Buffalo, a region used to harsh winters, a father, Zila Santiago, and his four young children spent 11 long hours in their car before being rescued, according to the New York Times.
Mr. Santiago said he called the paramedics, the National Guard and friends to help him, to no avail — even paramedics were blocked by snow.
So he revved the engine to keep his kids warm and fed them juice from the trunk until a snowplow finally came to their rescue at dawn.
“We had rescuers fly to the rescue of other rescuers,” Buffalo Deputy Mayor Crystal Rodriguez-Dabney told CNN on Tuesday. “It was necessary to first help the relief workers so that they could go and help the population”.
The driving ban remained in effect Tuesday for the city of Buffalo, tweeted Mark Poloncarz, the local official.
“Please stay out of the city of Buffalo. You are hampering clearing efforts,” he told reporters on Tuesday, warning that conditions remained dangerous.
“This is clearly the blizzard of the century,” New York State Governor Kathy Hochul said Monday.
Even if the intensity of the storm is no longer that of the past few days, it is "still dangerous to be outside", she warned.
The US Weather Service (NWS) has warned of “locally dangerous traffic conditions”.
The total of deaths confirmed by authorities across nine US states is at least 50 dead. In Ohio, road accidents linked to these bad weather killed nine people, the Ohio State Highway Patrol confirmed to AFP.
Rescue teams evacuated hundreds of people from snow-covered cars and homes without power, but others could still be stranded in snow, authorities said.
Many homes were left without power – up to 1.7 million on Saturday at the heart of the storm, according to poweroutage.us.