Death toll climbs as blizzard-battered Buffalo area digs out

Dec 28, 2022, 3:14 PM | Updated: Dec 30, 2022, 5:51 am

              Pedestrians walk along a downtown sidewalk in Buffalo, N.Y., on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. Snow removal efforts continued as the region digs out from a blizzard that brought hurricane-force wind gusts, more than four feet of snow and is blamed for at least 40 deaths. (AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson)
            
              Cars drive past mounds of snow under a "Welcome to Buffalo" sign in Buffalo, N.Y., on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. Snow removal efforts continued as the region digs out from a blizzard that brought hurricane-force wind gusts, more than four feet of snow and is blamed for at least 40 deaths. (AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson)
            
              A front loader hauls snow from a residential street in Buffalo, N.Y., on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. Snow removal efforts continued as the region digs out from a blizzard that brought hurricane-force wind gusts, more than four feet of snow and is blamed for multiple deaths. (AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson)
            
              A person removes snow on Hertel Avenue a few days after a winter storm rolled through Western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              Snow covered cars line a side street a few days after a winter storm rolled through Western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              Heavy machinery push and unload snow outside of the Central Terminal, a former train station, in Buffalo, N.Y., on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. Snow removal efforts continued as the region digs out from a blizzard that brought hurricane-force wind gusts, more than four feet of snow and is blamed for multiple deaths. (AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson)
            
              People take a dog for a walk in Delaware Park a few days after a winter storm rolled through western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              A message is posted outside the North Park theater after a winter storm rolled through western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              Workers remove snow in front of houses after a winter storm rolled through western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              A front loader dumps snow into a dump truck along a residential street in Buffalo, N.Y. , on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. Snow removal efforts continued as the region digs out from a blizzard that brought hurricane-force wind gusts, more than four feet of snow and is blamed for multiple deaths. (AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson)
            
              A person shovels snow in short sleeves a few days after a winter storm rolled through Western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              A person removes snow from the front of his driveway a few days after a winter storm rolled through western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              Pedestrians walk along a downtown sidewalk in Buffalo, N.Y., on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. Snow removal efforts continued as the region digs out from a blizzard that brought hurricane-force wind gusts, more than four feet of snow and is blamed for at least 40 deaths. (AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson)
            
              Cars drive past mounds of snow under a "Welcome to Buffalo" sign in Buffalo, N.Y., on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. Snow removal efforts continued as the region digs out from a blizzard that brought hurricane-force wind gusts, more than four feet of snow and is blamed for at least 40 deaths. (AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson)
            
              A front loader hauls snow from a residential street in Buffalo, N.Y., on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. Snow removal efforts continued as the region digs out from a blizzard that brought hurricane-force wind gusts, more than four feet of snow and is blamed for multiple deaths. (AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson)
            
              A person removes snow on Hertel Avenue a few days after a winter storm rolled through Western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              Snow covered cars line a side street a few days after a winter storm rolled through Western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              Heavy machinery push and unload snow outside of the Central Terminal, a former train station, in Buffalo, N.Y., on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. Snow removal efforts continued as the region digs out from a blizzard that brought hurricane-force wind gusts, more than four feet of snow and is blamed for multiple deaths. (AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson)
            
              People take a dog for a walk in Delaware Park a few days after a winter storm rolled through western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              A message is posted outside the North Park theater after a winter storm rolled through western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              Workers remove snow in front of houses after a winter storm rolled through western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              A front loader dumps snow into a dump truck along a residential street in Buffalo, N.Y. , on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. Snow removal efforts continued as the region digs out from a blizzard that brought hurricane-force wind gusts, more than four feet of snow and is blamed for multiple deaths. (AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson)
            
              A person shovels snow in short sleeves a few days after a winter storm rolled through Western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              A person removes snow from the front of his driveway a few days after a winter storm rolled through western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              Pedestrians walk along a downtown sidewalk in Buffalo, N.Y., on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. Snow removal efforts continued as the region digs out from a blizzard that brought hurricane-force wind gusts, more than four feet of snow and is blamed for at least 40 deaths. (AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson)
            
              Cars drive past mounds of snow under a "Welcome to Buffalo" sign in Buffalo, N.Y., on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. Snow removal efforts continued as the region digs out from a blizzard that brought hurricane-force wind gusts, more than four feet of snow and is blamed for at least 40 deaths. (AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson)
            
              A front loader hauls snow from a residential street in Buffalo, N.Y., on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. Snow removal efforts continued as the region digs out from a blizzard that brought hurricane-force wind gusts, more than four feet of snow and is blamed for multiple deaths. (AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson)
            
              A person removes snow on Hertel Avenue a few days after a winter storm rolled through Western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              Snow covered cars line a side street a few days after a winter storm rolled through Western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              Heavy machinery push and unload snow outside of the Central Terminal, a former train station, in Buffalo, N.Y., on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. Snow removal efforts continued as the region digs out from a blizzard that brought hurricane-force wind gusts, more than four feet of snow and is blamed for multiple deaths. (AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson)
            
              People take a dog for a walk in Delaware Park a few days after a winter storm rolled through western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              A message is posted outside the North Park theater after a winter storm rolled through western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              Workers remove snow in front of houses after a winter storm rolled through western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              A front loader dumps snow into a dump truck along a residential street in Buffalo, N.Y. , on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. Snow removal efforts continued as the region digs out from a blizzard that brought hurricane-force wind gusts, more than four feet of snow and is blamed for multiple deaths. (AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson)
            
              A person shovels snow in short sleeves a few days after a winter storm rolled through Western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              A person removes snow from the front of his driveway a few days after a winter storm rolled through western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              A person removes snow on Hertel Avenue a few days after a winter storm rolled through Western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              Snow covered cars line a side street a few days after a winter storm rolled through Western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              People take a dog for a walk in Delaware Park a few days after a winter storm rolled through western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              A message is posted outside the North Park theater after a winter storm rolled through western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              Workers remove snow in front of houses after a winter storm rolled through western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              A person shovels snow in short sleeves a few days after a winter storm rolled through Western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              A person removes snow from the front of his driveway a few days after a winter storm rolled through western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              A person removes snow on Hertel Avenue a few days after a winter storm rolled through Western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              Snow covered cars line a side street a few days after a winter storm rolled through Western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              People take a dog for a walk in Delaware Park a few days after a winter storm rolled through western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              A message is posted outside the North Park theater after a winter storm rolled through western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              Workers remove snow in front of houses after a winter storm rolled through western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              A person shovels snow in short sleeves a few days after a winter storm rolled through Western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              A person removes snow from the front of his driveway a few days after a winter storm rolled through western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              A front end loader dump snow into a dump truck as crews clear large amounts of snow, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y., days after a winter storm passed through. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              A car sits buried under snow, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y., following a winter storm. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              National guard members check on residents, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y., following a winter storm. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              Various retail items litter the ground of a Family Dollar store after it was reportedly looted on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo. N.Y., on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022. Clean-up remains underway after a blizzard hit four Western New York counties. (Joseph Cooke/The Buffalo News via AP)
            
              A car sits burried after a winter storm rolled through Western New York Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              Mynishia Holley, center, leaves Tops Friendly Market on Jefferson Avenue after buying groceries in Buffalo, N.Y., on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022. Clean-up efforts remain underway after a blizzard hit four Western New York counties. (Joseph Cooke/The Buffalo News via AP)
            
              National guard members check on residents, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y., following a winter storm. The National Guard went door to door in parts of Buffalo on Wednesday to check on people who lost power during the area’s deadliest winter storm in decades, and authorities faced the tragic possibility of finding more victims amid melting snow. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              A snow removal truck clears snow off route 33 after a winter storm rolled through Western New York Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              Vehicles drive down Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo. N.Y., on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022. Clean-up efforts remain underway after a blizzard hit four Western New York counties. (Joseph Cooke//The Buffalo News via AP)
            
              A person clears snow, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y., following a winter storm. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
             (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes) 
              National guard members check on residents, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y., following a winter storm. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              National guard members check on residents, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y., following a winter storm. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              A front end loader dump snow into a dump truck as crews clear large amounts of snow, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y., days after a winter storm passed through. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
            
              Raymond Santiago observes the snow in his neighborhood after shoveling snow by his front door in Buffalo, N.Y., on Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2022. Santiago, who's been in Buffalo for 35 years, says this is one of the worst snowstorms he's seen in the city. (Joseph Cooke/The Buffalo News via AP)

Pedestrians walk along a downtown sidewalk in Buffalo, N.Y., on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. Snow removal efforts continued as the region digs out from a blizzard that brought hurricane-force wind gusts, more than four feet of snow and is blamed for at least 40 deaths. (AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson)

(AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Roads reopened Thursday in storm-besieged Buffalo as authorities continued searching for people who may have died or are stuck and suffering after last week’s blizzard.

The driving ban in New York’s second-most-populous city was lifted just after midnight Thursday, Mayor Byron Brown announced.

At least 40 deaths in western New York, most of them in Buffalo, have been reported from the blizzard that raged across much of the country, with Buffalo in its crosshairs on Friday and Saturday.

“Significant progress has been made” on snow removal, Brown said at a news conference late Wednesday. Suburban roads, major highways and Buffalo Niagara International Airport had already reopened.

Still, Brown urged residents not to drive if they didn’t have to.

The National Guard was going door-to-door to check on people who lost power, and authorities faced the possibility of finding more victims as snow melted amid increasingly mild weather. Buffalo police and officers from other law enforcement agencies also searched for victims, sometimes using officers’ personal snowmobiles, trucks and other equipment.

Some victims have yet to be identified, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said at a storm briefing Thursday.

“There are families in this community who still have not been able to identify where a loved one is, they’re missing,” he said.

With the death toll already surpassing that of the area’s notorious Blizzard of 1977 and rising daily, local officials faced questions about the response to last week’s storm. They insisted that they prepared but the weather was extraordinary, even for a region prone to powerful winter storms.

“The city did everything that it could under historic blizzard conditions,” the mayor said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, officials watched a forecast that calls for some rain later in the week as snow melts in temperatures approaching or topping 50 degrees (10 Celsius).

The National Weather Service forecast that any flooding would be minor, but state and local officials said they were preparing nonetheless. Gov. Kathy Hochul said the state was ready to deploy nearly 800,000 sandbags and more than 300 pumps and generators for flooding response efforts if needed.

During his briefing, Poloncarz apologized for publicly criticizing the city of Buffalo’s snow removal efforts as too slow, even “embarrassing,” a day earlier.

“We’ve been dealing with much, including the unfolding issues associated with the deaths, the identification of bodies, individuals who have not yet been identified, and new deaths that are coming in that are absolutely heartbreaking,” said Poloncarz, adding that he was trying to contact Brown to make amends. “I basically lost my focus.”

Brown had rebuffed Poloncarz’s complaints, saying Wednesday that the city had been “working diligently, working around the clock” to clear snow and strove to work cooperatively with others in government and the community.

Brown, Poloncarz and Hochul all are Democrats.

A company that estimates damage from natural disasters said insured losses from the winter storm would be $5.4 billion across 42 states. Karen Clark & Co. said New York, Texas, Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina sustained the most storm damage, with freezing temperatures, which can result in infrastructure disruptions and burst pipes, accounting for the vast majority of the loss.

___

Peltz reported from New York.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Death toll climbs as blizzard-battered Buffalo area digs out