NEW YORK (Reuters) - Western New York state braced for a fresh wave of heavy snow on Wednesday after a freakish storm swept off the Great Lakes and buried the region under 5 feet (1.5 meters) of it, killing at least six people and stranding motorists in cars overnight.
The fierce storm paused on Wednesday morning and the sun broke through over the city of Buffalo, but snow was expected to resume later in the day, said Deputy Erie County Executive Richard Tobe.
The next snow was forecast to arrive by nightfall on Wednesday and dump another 3 feet (1 meter) of snow, he said. The autumn snowstorm has already left accumulations that are remarkable even for the Buffalo area, where heavy snowfalls and frigid winter weather are the norm.
“That’s a year’s worth of snow,” Tobe said, noting a state of emergency remained in effect for the area, where driving was banned on many roads and a 140-mile (225-km) stretch of the New York State Thruway along Lake Erie and Lake Ontario was closed.
The storm was all the more unusual in that it inundated some areas while dropping only a couple of inches just a few miles away, according to local media.
In south Buffalo, which has implemented a driving ban, 18 snow mobiles were being used to respond to emergency medical calls and rescue stranded motorists, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said at a news conference.
More than 5,000 tons of snow have been removed from the area and 100 vehicles have been towed, Brown said.
“We are making progress but there’s a long way to go,” Brown said.
As of Wednesday, parts of Erie County in western New York had 5 feet (1.5 m) of snow with more falling, said Steven Welch, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service near Buffalo.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has declared a state of emergency for 10 counties, deploying National Guard troops to help residents cope with the storm.
At least six deaths were linked to the storm, Erie County Sheriff’s Department spokesman John Greenan said. In one case, a 46-year-old man was found in his car buried under about 15 feet (4.6 meters) of snow. One person was killed in a traffic accident and three others died after suffering heart problems. There were no details about the sixth death, Greenan said.
Additional reporting by Curtis Skinner; Writing by Frank McGurty; Editing by Will Dunham