As western New York faces its deadliest storm in 50 years, the death toll has risen to 37. Over the next 48 hours, the National Guard, along with other local authorities, plans to go door-to-door performing wellness checks throughout the city of Buffalo, bracing for an increase in the storm’s death toll.
So far, three of the 34 dead have not yet been identified. Mark Poloncarz, the local county executive, has asked families to contact local police, hoping to ID the deceased individuals.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Poloncarz extended the driving ban in Buffalo, stating that it will be reevaluated overnight into Thursday. Polonzarc reported it will take two days to open up one lane on every street in the city.
Poloncarz also expressed his frustration with the City of Buffalo’s response to the blizzard, especially its snow-clearing operations as it remains the only part of Erie County with a driving ban in effect.
“The mayor’s not going to be happy to hear about it, but storm after storm after storm after storm, the City, unfortunately, is the last one to be opened and that shouldn’t be the case,” Poloncarz said. “It’s embarrassing, to tell you the truth.”
“We will do what it takes in the future to ensure that our community is open as quickly as possible,” Poloncarz continued. “If that means we to hire more trucks and get more contractors and bring in more people to handle an area that Erie County has never been responsible for, we’ll do it. I just don’t want to see this anymore, I’m sick of it.”
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown responded to Poloncarz’s comments at a later press conference, saying, “[Poloncarz] has never once directly… said anything of these things to me. So, to say that during a news briefing is a little strange, it’s a little odd. I don’t know where that comes from.”
As the streets are cleared and the city tries to recover from the blizzard, Buffalo still faces more challenges. With the temperature set to rise near the end of the week, the National Weather Service has warned of flooding.
Nationwide, at least 60 people have died in weather-related incidents over the course of the blizzard.