An extreme lake effect storm has dumped as much as 65 inches of snow just south of Buffalo, N.Y. The monster storm has resulted in at least six deaths in the area, where drivers remain stranded, transportation has been frozen to a halt, and — unfortunately — snow is expected to keep falling until Friday.
Officials are bracing for as many as 2 additional feet of snow in some portions of the Buffalo area on Thursday, as forecasters predict yet another likely lake effect storm.
According to the Buffalo News, two people died while trying to shovel their way out of the heavy snow, possibly from heart problems. A 46-year-old man was found dead in his car, which was buried in snow. Another person was killed when he was pinned while attempting to free a vehicle that was stuck in the snow, according to the NBC affiliate, WGRZ. A fifth person died under unspecified circumstances, also from a heart problem. And a county employee in Genesee County reportedly died while clearing snow outside of the sheriff’s office. (The brutal weather was also blamed for deaths in Michigan and New Hampshire, according to the Associated Press.)
The lake effect wall of snow left wildly varying snow totals across the region: one side of Cheektowaga, N.Y., had at least 51 inches of snow Tuesday; the other side of town recorded just 2 inches.
Where the snow fell hard, officials struggled to free trapped drivers. A bus carrying the Niagara University women’s basketball team was trapped on I-90 for more than 24 hours.
“It was a little scary,” Emily Granruth, a 19-year-old guard for the team, told The Post in an overnight telephone from inside the bus. “We didn’t know what was going on.”
The bus was eventually freed and the team resumed its ride home Wednesday morning.
On our way back to campus now! pic.twitter.com/urg4bYAhiD
— NiagaraWBB (@NiagaraWBB) November 19, 2014
Unfortunately, Interpol’s tour bus is still trapped somewhere on the highway:
Still trapped yo! Haven’t really moved in 30 hours and we’ve been on the bus for nearly 40 hours. Nutso. Never seen anything like it.-DK
— Interpol (@Interpol) November 19, 2014
The band had to cancel its Toronto show this week. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has already deployed the National Guard to the area to assist with emergency operations. Several major roads, including I-90, remain closed. As many as 140 cars were stranded overnight on a single stretch of the highway, WKBW reported. Several have been trapped since early Tuesday morning.
Salvatore Durante and his teenage daughter became trapped on the highway while driving back from the Buffalo Airport on Tuesday morning. Speaking to WIVB several hours later, Durante said: “We weren’t prepared obviously, because we were driving back from the airport. We had no water or anything to eat. The trucker next to us, bless his heart, gave us four bottles of water, which we are almost done with. And a bag of peanuts. And a little package of peanut butter crackers.”
Durante added: “I run the car every half hour for about 20 minutes. I go outside and I’m not dressed for it, so my pants and socks and shoes are soaked. I go out to the back of the car and with my hands, I dig out holes and little caves if you will for the exhaust pipe so we don’t die of carbon monoxide poisoning.” Along with the college basketball team and the Durante family, the snow trapped ambulances and other emergency vehicles.
One woman, Bethany Hojnacki, ended up giving birth at a fire house when she couldn’t reach the hospital. She and her husband had stopped to help another trapped driver, who happened to be a pediatric nurse, according to WVIB. The baby, Lucy Grace Hojnacki, was delivered by the nurse on Tuesday evening. She and her mom were eventually transported to a nearby hospital. Other rescue workers had to use alternate means of transportation to do their work:
The snowfall has also led to the suspension of westbound Amtrak service from Albany.
Angela Fritz contributed to this report.