Correction: A previous version of this article misrepresented the potential amount of storm-related deaths. Poloncarz said the storm could result in triple the amount of deaths than that of the May 14 mass shooting.
BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — After already surpassing that of the Blizzard of ’77, Erie County’s death toll has now reached 39, bringing the overall known storm deaths in western New York to 40. Of those who died in Erie County, 17 were found outside, four were in cars and 11 were inside homes, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said. Four other deaths were the result of shoveling or snow-blowing and another three resulted from a delayed response by medical officials.
During a conference updating the numbers early Thursday afternoon, Poloncarz noted that 31 of the people who died were from Buffalo, including the 13 most recent deaths to be reported. Seven people were from Amherst, Williamsville, Depew or Cheektowaga, and one is still unknown. He said the total amount of deaths the community is looking at is triple the number of deaths as the Jefferson Avenue Tops supermarket mass shooting, which took the lives of 10 people in May. Ethnically, 18 of the storm’s victims were white, 20 were Black and one was Hispanic, according to Poloncarz.
A four-month-old died on Christmas Day, but it’s not clear if this was storm-related. Poloncarz says that the county had also been under the impression that another child died in a drowning incident at a local hotel, but that child was saved and survived. Additional bodies have been received by officials, but it’s yet to be determined whether their deaths were storm related.
The one death that was reported outside of Erie County came from Lockport, where Niagara County officials say the 27-year-old victim died of carbon monoxide poisoning. There has been recent controversy surrounding words said by County Executive Mark Poloncarz in response to the city’s snow removal efforts. During a conference Wednesday, Poloncarz said, “The mayor’s not going to be happy to hear about it, but storm after storm after storm after storm, the city, unfortunately, is the last one to be opened and that shouldn’t be the case. It’s embarrassing, to tell you the truth.”
Starting off his virtual conference on Thursday, Poloncarz issued an apology to the community. “I basically lost my focus,” Poloncarz said, going on to say that his emotions got the best of him and that his focus should have been on cleanup and recovery efforts. The County Executive says he has since reached out to Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown.
The cleanup efforts have come at a hefty cost, with Poloncarz saying that preliminary estimates show the county has spent $5 million on private contractors. $1 million was spent just Wednesday for the county’s cleanup efforts in Buffalo alone. Those millions of dollars include the cost of gas. Poloncarz, on Twitter, wrote that “crews’ equipment is going through 2,000 gallons of fuel every four hours.” Thankfully, storm-related power outages are no longer a big concern. After tens of thousands were reported, NYSEG and National Grid have since fixed them.
In addition to the outages, flooding has also been on the minds of many, especially with the weather gradually warming up this week. “Thankfully, it appears that flooding will be minimal,” Poloncarz said during Thursday’s update. To go with that, significant ice jamming isn’t expected either.
Here’s when some local creeks and rivers are expected to crest:
- Cazenovia Creek: 10 p.m. Saturday to 1 a.m. Sunday
- Buffalo Creek: 7 p.m. Saturday to 7 a.m. Sunday
- Tonawanda Creek: Late Sunday through Monday morning
- Cayuga Creek: Friday morning through Saturday morning
You’ve probably been seeing a lot fewer cars sitting along the road, too. After getting stuck in the snow, many drivers have finally been reunited with their vehicles. Looking at those towed by Erie County, there are only about 40 left. More information on locating your vehicle after it was towed can be found here.