WASHINGTON (AFP) – Record-breaking snowfall that buried towns near Buffalo, New York, and killed at least 14 people posed a major flooding threat Saturday with temperatures forecast to rise.
Areas of western New York that got socked with more than six feet (two metres) of snow this week are now are under a flood warning, the National Weather Service said.
The zone was previously under a flood watch, which urges people to prepare for a possibility, while a more serious flood warning is issued when flooding is imminent or occurring.
The warning was in effect in northern Erie, Genessee, Wyoming, Chatauqua, Cattaraugus, southern Erie counties, including the cities of Buffalo, Batavia, Warsaw, Jamestown, Olean, Orchard Park and Springville.
More than 600,000 people live in the area, where thousands particularly in towns south of Buffalo have been trapped in their homes for nearly a week – unable to emerge from doors they cannot open due to heavy snowpack.
Authorities urged people to clear storm drains in front of their homes, and to get any valuables out of their basements.
In Lackawanna, National Guard troops were out enforcing the travel ban, officials said.
“Only the city of Buffalo south of Seneca Street, the city of Lackawanna and the town of Eden have driving bans now,” tweeted Erie county executive Mark Poloncarz.
Snowfall roughly equivalent to a year’s supply of snow in two days saw the National Guard called up and could yet prompt a federal disaster declaration, local officials said.
Many of those who died lost their lives while clearing mounds of heavy snow from their cars and homes.