Dozens Dead After Historic Winter Storm Elliott Traps Drivers in Cars

Some drivers were snowed in for two days in Buffalo's monster storm.

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WEST SENECA, NY - DECEMBER 26: A car is abandoned along Southwestern Boulevard on December 26, 2022 in West Seneca, New York.
WEST SENECA, NY - DECEMBER 26: A car is abandoned along Southwestern Boulevard on December 26, 2022 in West Seneca, New York.
Photo: John Normile (Getty Images)

Winter Storm Elliott sank most of the country into a deep freeze and dumped tons of snow over the holidays killing over 50 people nationwide, with more than half of those fatalities in hard-hit New York.

Updated Tuesday, December 27, 2022 11:08 a.m. EST - The total death toll in Erie County as of this morning due to the storm is 35 deaths, including 27 weather-related deaths in just Buffalo, New York, according to Fox Weather.

The storm dumped more than 50 inches of snow on Erie County, New York, in three days, ABC reports. Officials put a driving ban on the county that remains in affect for the cities of Buffalo and Lackawanna as of Tuesday morning.

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As of this writing, 29 people lost their lives in last week’s storm in the Erie County area alone, according to WHEC. Some froze in their cars, died in crashes on slippery snow-clog streets, or died on the side of the road while seemingly seeking shelter. Officials told CNN they expect the death toll to rise as cleanup continues.

Those who lost their lives around Buffalo were found in cars, homes and snowbanks. Some died while shoveling snow, others when emergency crews could not respond in time to medical crises.

Melissa Carrick, a doula, said the blizzard forced her to coach a pregnant client through childbirth by telephone. An ambulance crew transported the woman to a hospital about 45 minutes south of Buffalo because none of the closer hospitals were reachable.

“In any other normal Buffalo storm? I would just go because that’s what you do – just drive through the snow,” she said. “But you knew this was different.”

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It didn’t help that first responder vehicles were just as likely to be incapacitated by the snow as a passenger car. New York Governor Kathy Hochul told reporters over the weekend that, at one point National Guard vehicles as well as nearly every fire truck in Buffalo got stuck in the snow, as well as 14 ambulances, according to SILive.

Now stranded and stuck cars are proving a challenge for clean-up efforts, with snow plows and the few drivers on the road forced to navigate around hulking piles of snow with barely visible tires and headlights poking out. Forklifts are being used to pull cars out of snowbanks. By Wednesday morning, the area is expected to see nine more inches.

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New York was the hardest hit in terms of snow, but the weather was historic across the country. Cities like Orlando and Houston saw one of the coldest Christmases on record. Temperatures in the central plain states dropped to below zero. Almost 5,000 flights across the country were canceled due to the storm.