Dec. 26 (UPI) — The winter storm ravaging most of the United States during the Christmas holidays has claimed at least 27 lives in western New York and at least 57 nationwide, officials estimated Monday.
Erie County, N.Y., Executive Mark Poloncarz announced at a Monday news conference that 12 additional deaths had been caused by the historic blizzard, bringing the area’s death toll to 25 — most occurring in the city of Buffalo.
One death was reported in neighboring Niagara County of a man who died from apparent carbon monoxide poisoning attributed to the storm, the Buffalo News reported.
The new deaths bring the number of total deaths nationwide to at least 57 people, according to a tally by NBC News.
Poloncarz said that “snow is still dropping” and that officials expect another 8 and 12 inches of snow by 1 p.m. on Tuesday.
He described the historic storm as a “horrible situation.”
“We were able to lift the driving ban in some communities but there is still a driving ban in the city of Buffalo,” Poloncarz said. “The city of Buffalo is impassible in most areas.”
Poloncarz said that the roads are covered with abandoned cars, tractor-trailers and buses — many of which are pointing the wrong directions.
In a separate statement, Poloncarz warned businesses in Erie County that “price gouging is illegal in an emergency situation.”
“Independent snow contractors cannot price gouge to dig people out — it is a crime,” he said.
Nearly 150,000 U.S. electricity customers remained without power on Monday, including 15,889 in the state of New York, according to the online tracker PowerOutage.us.
The majority of power outages Monday were reported in the state of Washington, where vandals were blamed for attacking four electricity substations.
The continued effects of the storm, which stretched from the southern border to Canada, led to more than 8,160 delays in U.S. flights on Monday with nearly 4,000 cancellations, according to FlightAware.
Of those, more than 2,900 were Southwest flights, accounting for 71% of its scheduled trips for Monday.
“With consecutive days of extreme winter weather across our network behind us, continuing challenges are impacting our customers and employees in a significant way that is unacceptable,” Southwest Airlines said in a statement. “And our heartfelt apologies for this are just beginning.”
The National Weather Service in New York City said in a statement that the Big Apple is still experiencing a “very cold day” on Monday but that weaker winds are helping with wind chill values.
“Sunshine is also expected to stick around for a few days as temperatures warm back into the 50s by this weekend, just in time for New Year’s,” the NWS said.
However, the NWS cautioned that much of the eastern United States “will remain in a deep freeze on Monday” before warming up on Tuesday.
“The life-threatening cold temperatures and in combination with dangerous wind chills will create a potentially life-threatening hazard for travelers that become stranded, individuals that work outside, livestock and domestic pets,” forecasters said.
The NWS has warned of a “more active, stormy pattern” in the western United States as a cyclone and a cold front will move inland, bringing a few inches of rain, sleet and snow through early Wednesday morning.