National Guard set to go door-to-door in Buffalo as they brace for finding more people dead from catastrophic storm as death toll rises to 34 and nearly 1,000 homes remain without power in Erie County

  • Troops from the National Guard are set to go door-to-door for wellness checks 
  • Less than 1,000 homes remain without power in Erie County 
  • County execs noted that three of the 34 dead have still yet to be identified 
  • Many remain buried in Buffalo, with a let-up expected at the end of the week 

The National Guard is set to go door-to-door for wellness checks in the city of Buffalo over the next 48 hours, as they brace for more than the 34 already pronounced dead in the western New York region. 

Mark C. Poloncarz, the local county executive, made the announcement that the Guard will join other local authorities to visit neighborhoods that lost power during the ‘blizzard of the century.’ 

Less than 1,000 homes remain without power in Erie County. Those who had no power going past 72 hours have been told to file utility reimbursement claims.  

Poloncarz also noted that three of the 34 dead have still yet to be identified and pleaded for families to contact local police. 

Troops from the National Guard are set to go door-to-door for wellness checks in the city of Buffalo over the next 48 hours, as they brace for more than the 34 already pronounced dead in the western New York region

Many remain buried in the city, with a let-up in temperature expected toward the end of the week, but the National Weather Service has warned of flooding. 

The storm has killed at least 68 people across the country and the aftermath in Buffalo has been likened to a war zone, with struggling emergency crews expecting the death toll to rise further. 

About 30 people were forced to spend their Christmas inside a Target store in Cheektowaga, Buffalo, after the blizzard tore through the region ‘hard and fast’.

Nathan Marton, the city’s public works commissioner, urged people to ‘stay patient, and stay off the roads’, adding: ‘We still are finding a lot of people out and about just hampering our efforts as first responders.’

The storm hit over Christmas weekend and, while the worst of the snowfall has now passed, ice melt and incoming rain has authorities on edge with increased risk of flash flooding. 

Authorities are working to remove ice and blockages from storm drains ahead of what is being described as ‘rapid melt’, which, paired with warmer temperatures in the coming days, could spark more problems.

‘It’ll be warming up soon. By Thursday the high will be 46 (8C). By Saturday it’ll be 54 (12C),’ meteorologist Bob Oravec said. 

Mark C. Poloncarz (pictured center), the local county executive, made the announcement that the Guard will join other local authorities to neighborhoods that lost power during the ‘blizzard of the century’

Less than 1,000 homes remain without power in Erie County. Those who had no power going past 72 hours have been told to file utility reimbursement claims

Many remain buried in the city, with a let-up expected toward the end of the week as temperature, but the National Weather Service has warned of flooding

One Buffalo resident, Luke Bennett, was seen shoveling mountains of snow for his neighbors on Tuesday

Houses along Lake Erie are still covered in snow and there are concerns rapid melt could cause flooding

Houses along the shores of Lake Erie remain covered in ice after the storm

This neighborhood is blanketed in a thick layer of snow and ice after the storm

Kathy Hochul, New York state’s governor and a Buffalo native, said the aftermath resembled ‘a war zone’, while County Executive Mark Poloncarz called it ‘the worst storm probably in our lifetime’

Pictured: A gas station canopy lays on its side after high winds and heavy snow along Lake Shore Boulevard

Meanwhile, Sheriff John Garcia admitted on Tuesday that authorities ‘absolutely’ could have done a better job in handling the tragedy.

‘We planned,’ he said. ‘But we never thought that it was going to be as bad as it was. So do we have to get better? Absolutely. Better equipment, more equipment.’ 

The state National Guard has deployed 100 military police, along with officers from New York City to help manage traffic and enforce the restrictions.

Jessica Sypniewski, of West Seneca, said the blinding snow made it too unsafe to try to drive on Friday, so she sought shelter in Target Cheektowaga.

‘You couldn’t see 2 inches in front of you,’ she said. ‘I’ve been here 33 years, and I’ve never experienced anything like this in my entire life.’ 

Seven Target employees and six other people were already sheltering inside, and welcomed her group of six with open arms.

‘When we first got there, I felt so relieved,’ she said. ‘I started crying, and that was seriously a life-and-death situation out there.’ 

By Christmas Eve, there were about 30 people hunkering down in the store.


Seven Target employees and six other people were already sheltering inside, and welcomed her group of six with open arms. By Christmas Eve, there was about 30 people hunkering down in the store

The entrance to the Target store was inundated with snow, leaving customers and staff trapped for days

About 30 people were forced to spend their Christmas inside a Buffalo Target store after the blizzard tore through the region ‘hard and fast’

The stranded shoppers were even able to watch a Buffalo Bills NFL game on TV. 

The Target’s internal Starbucks worked to keep everyone warm with hot drinks, and people used inflatable mattresses from the camping section to sleep. 

TikTok creator Carla Rodriguez documented the ordeal on her social media channels.

She revealed the heating was automatically switched off on Christmas Eve as the store was meant to be closed, but staff immediately set to work trying to get it back up and running.

‘Didn’t get much sleep,’ she added. The next day Ms Rodriguez shared another update revealing they had set up the Bills game on the television and found ‘activities’ like coloring in to occupy themselves.

‘Trying to make the best of today,’ she said.

By Christmas Day, she described seeing snow ploughs as a ‘Christmas miracle’, and was hopeful she and the remainder of the stranded customers would be able to leave.

She shared footage of some of the others attempting to get a car out of thick snow, but later revealed she would be spending another night in the store.

‘Leaving, we could see people who have been stuck in cars for the past two days. We stopped along with another man to help this woman get out.

‘It was bittersweet, shared a few tears with each other and our family. Not only for us but everyone dealing with tragedy during this time.’

Over 92 inches of snow blanketed Buffalo from Friday to Sunday, which is about the same amount the city generally sees in a year.

Kathy Hochul, New York state’s governor and a Buffalo native, said the aftermath resembled ‘a war zone’, while County Executive Mark Poloncarz called it ‘the worst storm probably in our lifetime’. 

‘Certainly it is the blizzard of the century,’ Ms Hochul told reporters.

Some 4,500 customers remain without electricity due to the ferocity of the storm. 

As temperatures plummeted, commuters and some residents fleeing their freezing homes became trapped on highways, unable to be rescued.

A loader makes its way along South Park Avenue to assist with the mammoth clean up

In a city well accustomed to snowstorms, some residents were blaming a travel ban they said was enacted too late on Friday morning as contributing to the mayhem

The problem was compounded when some areas were rendered inaccessible to ambulances for dozens of hours and snowplows were unable to perform their job due to the ferocity of the storm.

The family of one 22-year-old Buffalo resident, Anndel Taylor, said she died in her car after getting stuck on her way home from work.

A video sent by Taylor and posted by her sister shows her vehicle covered up to its windows in snow.

Emergency responders, who themselves became stuck attempting to rescue her, found her dead 18 hours later, possibly due to carbon monoxide poisoning, her family in North Carolina told local TV station WSOC-TV.

Zila Santiago, 30, said he kept his engine running to provide some warmth and fed his children some juice found in his trunk.

They were finally rescued at dawn by a passing snowplow.

In a city well accustomed to snowstorms, some residents were blaming a travel ban they said was enacted too late on Friday morning as contributing to the mayhem.

Rescuers and emergency services are still finding cars trapped under the snow

Residents on Woodside Drive clear heavy snow, which is piled so high cars are still entirely covered

The travel ban warning came just 41 minutes before it was put into effect, at 8.49am on Friday. By that time, many people were already out on the road.

As of Tuesday night, Buffalo authorities were still working through about 1,000 emergency calls. 

Democrat Rachel Barnhart tweeted: ‘Was this inevitable or was there a failure in communicating and preparing? I hope there is a deep analysis post-recovery.’

State Assemblyman David DiPietro told The NY Post: ‘I think the governor and the government in western New York in Buffalo, Erie County, dropped the ball.’

President Joe Biden declared an emergency and has committed Federal assistance to supplement State and local response efforts. 

Buffalo resident Mark Eguliar remained at his workplace, where he was stuck for more than 40 hours.

‘Too many people were driving, too many people were not listening to the ban, so the cars were blocking all the roads, making it a lot harder to get home,’ he said. 

Buffalo’s international airport remains closed until Wednesday morning and a driving ban remains in effect for the city

Pictured: Luke Bennett and Amanda Markobich help to clear heavy snow for their neighbors

The perfect storm of fierce snow, howling wind and sub-zero temperatures forced the cancellation of almost 20,000 US flights in recent days, including some 3,200 on Tuesday, according to tracking site Flightaware.com.

Most of the cancellations on Tuesday were at Southwest Airlines, which pulled more than 60 percent of its flights due to cascading logistics issues, earning it a rebuke from the US government.

The Department of Transportation tweeted that it was ‘concerned by Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations’ and would examine if the company was ‘complying with its customer service plan,’ while the US Senate committee overseeing aviation said it would look into causes that ‘go beyond weather.’

Buffalo’s international airport remains closed until Wednesday morning and a driving ban remains in effect for the city.

Pictured: The wipers of a car buried in snow are seen in front of snow-covered homes

The National Weather Service forecast a respite of warmer temperatures around 50 degrees Fahrenheit

While the snowfall is now beginning to taper off, emergency services are still searching for cars under the mountains of snow and recovering victims

‘You can absolutely go out and walk to check on neighbors, go to open stores, etc. But do not drive,’ tweeted the county executive, Mark Poloncarz.

Longtime Buffalo resident Bill Sherlock told AFP that his home had received about four feet of snow, but that he was lucky to have had functioning electricity and food.

Those less fortunate ‘probably had the worst Christmas of their lives,’ said the 38-year-old attorney — mindful that some homes in his neighborhood have had no power since Friday.

While the snowfall is now beginning to taper off, emergency services are still searching for cars under the mountains of snow and recovering victims.

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