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Buffalo roads reopen as search for storm victims continues

Winter Weather New York
Posted at 10:55 AM, Dec 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-29 14:33:54-05

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.

“Significant progress has been made” on snow removal, he 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.

More than three dozen deaths have been reported in western New York from the blizzard that raged across much of the country, with Buffalo in its crosshairs on Friday and Saturday.

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 the 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.

With the death toll already surpassing that of the area's notorious Blizzard of 1977, local officials faced questions about the response to last week's storm. They insisted that they prepared but that 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, a Democrat, said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, officials watched a forecast that calls for some rain later in the week as the 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, a Democrat, said the state was ready to deploy nearly 800,000 sandbags and more than 300 pumps and generators for flooding response efforts if needed.