A nearly week-long driving ban is lifted in Buffalo as temperatures rise
The winter storm death toll has risen to 39 in the Buffalo, N.Y., area as officials deploy resources to clear snowed-in streets and lift a driving ban.
The dead have been found in homes, cars and the outdoors. The causes ranged from delayed emergency medical response to cardiac arrest from snow shoveling, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said in a midday news conference Thursday.
Western New York's rising death toll brings the nation's number of fatalities from the past week's massive winter storm to more than 50.
Officials expect additional deaths to be announced in the coming days as more bodies are discovered.
"There are still cases for the medical examiner's office to review including some absolutely heartbreaking cases," Poloncarz said.
The nearly week-long driving ban in Buffalo, instituted Friday at 9:30 a.m., has been lifted as temperatures rise. All major state highways in western New York have also reopened with the driving ban being lifted.
"Hundreds of very large pieces of equipment will still be out clearing streets from curb-to-curb," Poloncarz tweeted Wednesday night. "Please exercise caution while walking or driving."
A travel advisory will remain in effect in Erie County, which includes Buffalo, until further notice.
The National Weather Service forecasts higher-than-expected temperatures for the eastern U.S. in the next two weeks. Buffalo is expected reach the low 50s by Friday.
Authorities are preparing for flooding as the snow melts, but the NWS predicts the flooding will only be minor "depending on how much rain occurs this weekend."
"As temperatures begin to rise, we are preparing for potential flooding due to melting snow in Western New York," New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said Wednesday evening. "We have nearly 800,000 sandbags & more than 300 pumps & generators ready to deploy."
The National Guard began conducting door-to-door wellness checks Wednesday morning in neighborhoods that lost power, Poloncarz said at a news conference. The checks will continue until at least Friday morning.
"We are fearful that there are individuals who may have perished living alone or two people who are not doing well in an establishment, especially those that still don't have power," Poloncarz said.