US winter storm kills at least 26

“This wasn’t the Christmas we wanted”: A winter storm, carrying icy winds, swept across the central and eastern United States for days, killing more than two dozen people and leaving tens of thousands of Americans without power on Christmas Day.

Erie County in New York State, which includes the city of Buffalo, was particularly hard hit, with piles of snow reaching up to three meters high.

At least seven people died there as a result of the storm, district official Mark Polancarz told a news conference Sunday. Some were seen in cars, others on the street in the snow.

Since Wednesday evening, the United States has been battered by this rare intense storm, whose polar winds have brought heavy snowfall, especially in the Great Lakes region.

US officials have confirmed at least 26 deaths from the extreme weather in nine states. Some of these deaths occurred on roads that have become more dangerous due to icy conditions and poor visibility.

“This is not the Christmas we wanted,” said Mr. Polancarz said he fears other deaths will soon be counted in Erie County.

“People have been stuck in their cars for more than two days, others are in freezing cold houses,” he warned.

A travel ban was imposed in the area on Friday, but hundreds of people were still stranded in their vehicles.

Relief went from car to car on Sunday, “if they found any bodies,” CNN’s Mark Bollencarz recounted.

“The Great Crisis”

“It’s a big crisis,” acknowledged New York State Gov. Cathy Hochul, who is from Buffalo and has deployed the National Guard.

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“I’ve been through every major winter storm in the last 60 years,” he said. This is the worst. »

Power won’t be fully restored in Buffalo until Monday, and Pollancarz warned residents not to leave their homes as roads remain impassable.

Another 30 to 60 cm of snow is expected overnight, according to the latest bulletin from the US Weather Service (NWS).

“The wind is so strong,” the snow is forming like “sand dunes,” and it’s “crazy,” described Saturday to AFP Ali Lawson, 34, who has lived in Buffalo for eight years.

More than 150,000 homes on the East Coast were without power Sunday, the site said power cut. usEspecially in Maine and New York state.

Risk of hypothermia

However, temperatures should return to “seasonal norms by the middle of next week,” according to the NWS.

Air traffic gradually improved with nearly 1,800 flight cancellations on Sunday, up from more than 3,400 the previous day, according to the monitoring site. flightaware.com.

“The most serious disruptions are behind us,” US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Twitter on Saturday.

Shelters are open everywhere in American cities like Denver or Chicago.

In El Paso, Texas, desperate migrants from Mexico huddled in churches, schools and a civic center for warmth, teacher and volunteer Rosa Falcon told AFP.

But some chose to stay outside in freezing temperatures for fear of being noticed by immigration officials, he added.

The storm also affected Canada, with at least four people killed and several dozen injured after a bus crashed on an icy road in British Columbia, according to officials.

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More than 150,000 people are without power, particularly in Ontario and Quebec.

According to Canadian Rail, all trains from Toronto to Ottawa and Montreal were suspended on Christmas Day following the derailment.

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