The death toll from last week’s historic winter storm Elliot is on the rise with 62 confirmed dead as a result of the Arctic storm that swept most of the nation.
The pre-Christmas storm dumped 43 inches of snow in New York and killed at least 27 in that state alone, as of Dec. 26’s report by USA Today. Last week’s storm is being called one of the worst weather-related events in the region’s history.
The dead have been discovered in snowbanks, residences, and even in their vehicles. Some people passed away while attempting to shovel the snow. The number of fatalities in the nation was predicted to increase as many people continued to be without power as the bitter cold and dangerous driving conditions persisted.
Weather conditions led to road closures and stopped rail travel and bus service in several states, including New York, as early as Dec. 22.
Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and West Virginia have all declared states of emergency.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) weighed in on the worsening conditions saying on Dec. 22 afternoon, “It will be nasty, it will be brutish and I hope to God it’s short.”
More than 13,000 homes are still without power in Maine and New York, respectively according to poweroutage.us. The site reported that upwards of 43,000 residences and businesses were still without electricity in Washington state.
This is in contrast to just days earlier when overall, 143,582 households in the southern United States were without power; 36,924 lost electricity in the Great Lakes area, 32,950 households were without power in the Mid-Atlantic region and 24,005 in New England.
In Texas, more than 65,000 consumers were without power, as of early Dec. 23, and that number is changing rapidly. Tens of thousands of people in Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Missouri also lost power as temperatures continued to drop.
Erie County executive Mark Poloncarz said the blizzard was “the worst storm probably in our lifetime” and said the death toll will likely rise as motorists were stranded in cars for more than two days.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime, generational blizzard,” he said of the impacts on the county, which includes Buffalo. “And this is not the end yet.”
Poloncarz told “CNN This Morning” on Dec. 26, that in some situations they had to send specialized rescue crews to go get the rescuers. “It was just horrendous, and it was horrendous for 24 hours in a row,” he said.
On Dec. 25 they had to dig out 11 abandoned ambulances.
“We’re used to snow here, we can handle snow,” he said. “But with the wind, the blinding views—it was complete whiteouts—and the extreme cold, it was some of the worst conditions that any of us have ever seen.”
According to Hochul, some inhabitants have stayed in their houses for more than two days, some without power in the bitter cold. This was not said to be due to the lack of resources but more because of the difficulties that utility providers faced in terms of mobility and access.
The governor reported that by nightfall on Christmas Day 94.5 percent of Erie County residents and 87 percent of Buffalo residents had their electricity restored.
Elsewhere, the exceptionally cold temperatures in typically warmer areas of the United States have led to a number of deaths.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP) reported fatal collisions that led to at least two deaths according to Eric Foster, a trooper with the OHP. The agency also reported 54 injury collisions and 247 non-injury collisions as conditions deteriorated on Dec. 22.
In Iowa between Dec. 21 and Dec. 22, the temperatures plummeted as the winter storm moved across the state.
Authorities reported that they reacted to more than 200 crashes and more than 400 calls from drivers in need of assistance.
Sgt. Alex Dinkla, a spokesman for the Iowa State Patrol, stated that 12 of the collisions resulted in injuries and added, “The roads are very treacherous.”
In Utah, the death toll has been on the rise due to the cold conditions and lack of resources for the unhoused.
Mayor Erin Mendenhall of Salt Lake City, Utah told reporters just days ago that five homeless individuals had died due to cold exposure.
For Texans, the uncharacteristically cold weather has brought back memories of the winter storm of February 2021 that left millions without power and caused the death of hundreds.
The strained power grid prompted action from some Texans, including Dallas shelter chief executive Daniel Roby who is in charge of the Austin Street Center.
Roby told The New York Times that when they opened the shelter during the summer they made sure it had backup power sources.
“We’ve had folks that have come into the shelter after double amputations as a result of Winter Storm Uri,” Roby said of last year’s storm.
“Typically in Texas, we didn’t have that kind of weather. The past couple of years, we’ve had really bad storms, so we’re learning from that experience. We know now we need to do more than we’ve ever done before.”