Police and National Guard members are going door-to-door Wednesday to check on some Buffalo residents following a major winter storm that left dozens of people dead in recent days, officials said Wednesday.
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz confirmed the development on Wednesday morning in a news conference. National Guard members and police will be deployed to neighborhoods that lost power during the storm.
Poloncarz also warned more dead could be found during the door-to-door checks. “We are fearful that there are people who are not doing well, or who may have perished,” he said.
“If your neighborhood lost power, you’re going to see a member of the National Guard starting now for the next 48 hours, who is going to knock on your door, ‘Is everybody OK? Was there any issues? Is anyone sick,’” Poloncarz added.
Officials said more than 30 people so far have been reported to have died because of the blizzard that raged Friday and Saturday in western New York, an area prone to powerful winter storms. The historic Blizzard of 1977 killed as many as 29.
A driving ban remained in effect for Buffalo, Poloncarz said Wednesday. The National Guard and state police are enforcing the measure, he said.
“The National Guard is NOT ticketing, they are assisting with traffic issues and people violating the driving ban in the City of Buffalo while crews are still working to clear roads,” he wrote on Twitter Wednesday, adding that the ban on driving will likely remain for the rest of Wednesday.
The county executive added that “no EMS call will go unanswered” and that “911 has been up and running and EMS crews are focused on life-saving missions. There may be delays, but they are out responding to calls.”
At least one death in Erie County was connected to an EMS delay, he told CNN on Tuesday. “Our emergency responders could not get to the person because of the snow,” Poloncarz added. “They were blocked, and by the time they got there it was too late.”
Only a trace of snow might fall on Buffalo and Western New York off the Great Lakes on Wednesday as temperatures will hit 40 degrees Fahrenheit, said Josh Weiss, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.
“Most of the snow has ended, fortunately. They need a break,” Weiss said. “In Buffalo, there’s no forecast below zero into next week,” he said. “By the weekend it’ll be in the 50s.”
Weiss said that a warming trend has also begun for the eastern third of the United States and will extend past the new Year with temperatures remaining largely above freezing. Melting snow presents a risk of flooding and about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch of rain is expected in Western New York on Friday and Saturday.
“We’re expecting a rapid melt, and regional flooding on creeks. Creeks will top out,” Poloncarz said Wednesday.
Giant snow-blowing machines were deployed to help clear several major highways clogged with towering drifts.
Hundreds of electric company linemen were out restoring power, and Poloncarz posted on Twitter that some 4,500 customers remained without electricity on Tuesday, as crews cleared downed trees with chain saws.
For residents essentially trapped in their homes for two days, the easing of the storm brought a realization of how much snow fell during white-out conditions that had limited their view.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul called it an “epic, once-in-a-lifetime” weather disaster, the worst blizzard to hit the Buffalo area in 45 years.
Reuters contributed to this report.