NEW YORK: The death toll rose to 13 Friday from a killer snowstorm in western New York state where rising temperatures and heavy rain will compound misery by causing severe flooding into next week.
Blizzards dumped a year´s supply of snow in just days south of Buffalo city, bringing down 30 buildings, imperiling mobile homes and paralyzing communities.
Erie County chief executive Mark Poloncarz said 13 people had died and warned that further deaths could not be ruled out as rescue workers continue to dig out vehicles trapped in the snow.
The latest fatalities were two elderly people who died during and immediately after being evacuated from a nursing home, and a 50-year-old man found dead in his vehicle.
The National Weather Service says “lake effect snow,” created when frigid air moves over warm lake waters, remains a risk until noon but that only a few more inches are expected to fall Friday.
New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the state thruway would reopen in parts to essential travel from 3:00 pm but warned against unnecessary journeys as conditions remain perilous.
The improving weather would also allow for the massive snow removal effort to quicken pace, with the National Guard bringing in extra people and the arrival of additional equipment.
Cuomo, who has declared a state of emergency, said he had spoken to the White House on Thursday and said President Barack Obama sent his best wishes and that a full damages assessment could yet prompt a federal disaster declaration.
“It´s a matter of life and death literally,” said Cuomo.