Toll rises to 10 in killer US snowstorm

The death toll from a rare pre-winter snowstorm rose to 10 in the northeastern United States yesterday, paralysing communities for days and dumping more than six feet of snow near Buffalo.

The National Weather Service warned an extra 60cm to 90cm of “lake effect snow,” created when frigid air moves over warm lake waters, could fall yesterday.

It said visibility was near zero and that thunder and lightning were likely to accompany the heaviest snow as a state of emergency and travel bans remained in place in western New York state.

The colossal snowfall has collapsed roofs, damaged homes and businesses, cancelled flights and stranded motorists for as many as two nights on the highway, including New York rock group Interpol.

Precipitation roughly equivalent to a year’s supply of snow in two days has mobilised more than 5 000 people to help with snow removal and storm recovery, including the National Guard, officials said.

The death toll from “Winter Storm Knife” rose to 10 when two people died of exposure in Niagara County and Boston town in Erie County, officials said.

Four or five others died earlier in the storm while working to clear mounds of heavy snow from their cars and homes, and the blizzard could yet prompt a federal disaster declaration.

The state of emergency is so severe that the National Football League announced that the match between the local Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets would not be played on Sunday in Buffalo.

The NFL said it would reschedule and relocate the game, “due to public safety concerns” in the city.

“Very dangerous storm. One more day. Let’s get through this snow. People – continue to be smart. Stay at home. Observe the driving bans,” deputy Erie County executive Richard Tobe said.

The rock band Interpol said they were stranded more than 50 hours on their tour bus by the storm outside Buffalo, forcing them to cancel two consecutive nights of concerts in Montreal and Toronto.

“Finally just started making a move. 50+ hours later. Hoping for some luck today,” the band tweeted yesterday morning.

Alex Cleary, a senior programme coordinator at the University of Buffalo, and her husband have been snowed in at home for three days and Cleary said the snow was still coming down.

“It is a little bit scary, especially given that no one can really drive. So if you need help, it’s a little tough,” she said.

Temperatures are expected to rise above freezing on Saturday, then shoot up, bringing a deluge of rain which together with melting now bring severe flood warnings, officials said.

National Weather Service meteorologist Dave Zaff told AFP that some areas south of Buffalo city received at least 1.8m to 2m of snow since the storm began.

“This is definitely historic,” he said.

But come the weekend, “the main concern would be flooding,” Zaff warned.

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