A deadly snowfall that crippled a US state is finally expected to stop – but people now face the threat of massive flooding as temperatures rise through the weekend.
Roofs creaked and collapsed and people toiled to clear waist-high snow drifts atop their houses as another storm continued to bury Buffalo and western New York state, which remained paralysed by the white-out.
Even for the Buffalo area, one of America’s snowiest places, the snowfall was historic, as the three-day total neared 8ft, the amount the region typically gets over a year. Some areas had close to 3ft of new snow by last night.
The storms were blamed for at least 10 deaths in western New York, mostly from exposure and heart attacks, including several people who were shovelling snow.
Things could quickly get worse for the region on Lake Erie. Rain and temperatures as high as 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5 Celsius) were forecast over the weekend, raising the spectre of flooding and an even heavier load on roofs.
New York governor Andrew Cuomo begged drivers to stay off slippery, car-clogged roads while crews tried to dig out.
With roads impassable, driving bans in effect and the Buffalo Bills’ stadium buried in snow, the National Football League decided to move the Bills’ Sunday home game against the New York Jets to Monday night in Detroit, Michigan. Earliery, Mr Cuomo said holding the game would jeopardise public safety.
More than 50 people were evacuated from several mobile home parks because roofs were buckling. In one town authorities said more than a dozen structures collapsed, as did a metal warehouse operated by a Christmas decorations company.
About 180 residents of an assisted living complex were evacuated after staff members noticed the ceiling bulging under the weight of the snow.
Homeowners and store staff climbed on to roofs to shovel off the snow and reduce the danger.
National Guardsmen drove nurses to work their hospital shifts, state police helped the elderly trapped in their homes and 463 snowploughss, 129 loaders and 40 dump trucks were assembled from across the state.
A stretch of the New York State Thruway, the state’s main highway, remained closed, with more than 300 lorry drivers idled.
With deliveries interrupted, some grocery stores reported running low on staples like bread and milk.
“No matter how you cut it, this event will end up in the top five for the Lake Erie area,” said National Weather Service director Louis Uccellini.