New York death toll from winter storm rises to 7 as sleet confirmed in Florida

A maintenance worker deals with -5 temperature while clearing snow on the campus of North Central College in Naperville, Ill., on Friday. Photo by Mark Black/UPI
A maintenance worker deals with -5 temperature while clearing snow on the campus of North Central College in Naperville, Ill., on Friday. Photo by Mark Black/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 25 (UPI) -- The death toll from the snowstorm that pummeled western New York has risen to seven as the blizzard finally started to ease up on Christmas morning, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said Sunday.

In total, at least 23 people have died from winter weather across the United States, according to a count by ABC News. Fatalities were reported in Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Ohio, including four near Sandusky, Ohio, after a massive pileup on the Ohio Turnpike that involved at least 50 vehicles.


Poloncarz, speaking during a news conference on Christmas morning, said that at least three of the deaths were attributed to people who suffered medical emergencies who first responders were not able to reach because of the snow conditions.

"We had to save firemen, we had to save police officers, we had to save EMTs," Poloncarz said. "When the rescuers have to be rescued, I'm not certain what else we could have done."


Poloncarz said in a statement later in the morning that National Grid has reported 26,000 power outages still in Erie County, with over 20,000 of those outages in the city of Buffalo.

"There are power lines down, but the major issue for the large-scale power outages are frozen and inoperable substations," Poloncarz said.

More than 161,000 customers remained without power on Christmas morning across the United States, with 78,603 without electricity in Maine and 40,865 without power in all of the state of New York.

The NWS said in a statement that Americans could expect "a chilly start for Christmas morning" before a "powerful storm" will approach the western U.S. this week.

"A fast-moving storm is forecast to dive southward across the center of the nation with wind, accumulating snow and a wintry mix for the Plains and Lower Mississippi Valley," the statement reads.

More than 55 million people under wind chill alerts Sunday morning. That includes freezes warnings across the South.

The National Weather Service office in Florida said that sleet, also known as ice pellets, has been confirmed in the Rockledge, Viera and Merritt Island areas in Brevard County. More than 10,000 customers are without power in Florida.


CNN reported that some major cities on the eastern seaboard have recorded their coldest Christmas in decades and that cities in Florida -- including Miami, Tampa and Orlando -- will record the coldest Dec. 25 since 1983.

Saturday saw record-cold daily high temperatures in many cities across the country.

In Philadelphia, the high only raised to 18 degrees, three degrees lower than the previous record of 21 degrees felt in 1906 and 1989.

Other daily records broken along the east coast Saturday were in Wilmington, Del., with a high of 18); Trenton, N.J., high of 14, and Allentown, Pa., high of 13.

Farther south, record cold was felt in Knoxville, Tenn., with a high of 22 degrees and in Greensboro, N.C., with a high of 26 degrees. A record-low high temperature of 28 degrees was also recorded in Columbia, S.C.

In Chicago, the highest temperature Saturday was 13 degrees and the low was minus 1.

Temperatures were sitting around 21 degrees in Buffalo on Sunday, after reaching just 4 degrees on Saturday with a windchill as low as -21 degrees.

Poloncarz said that most of Buffalo remains "impassable" and encouraged residents not to venture out to try and rescue family and friends.


"This is not the Christmas any of us hoped for nor expected, but try to have as merry a Christmas as possible today. Thank you to everyone who embraced the holiday spirit and helped their neighbors in need," he said.

"Again, my deepest condolences to the families who have lost loved ones."

The National Weather Service in Buffalo has issued a "very heavy lake-effect snow band" that will target parts of Chautauqua through 1:15 p.m.

Snowfall totals at Buffalo Airport topped 43 inches, or more than 3.5 feet, as of 6:55 a.m. on Christmas morning, according to the NWS.

In Portland, Ore., residents could expect ice accumulations of up to an inch with power outages and down tree limbs, the NWS said, as an ice storm warning was issued through Tuesday morning.

The NWS said that there is a 97% chance for more than a foot of snow in neighboring Idaho through this week.

Meanwhile, parts of the southwest faced a warm Christmas including in Phoenix which reached a high temperature of 72 degrees.

The NWS office in San Diego said in a statement on Twitter that temperatures at its office in Rancho Bernardo hit 80 degrees by 11:05 a.m.


"Enjoy the warm temperatures, friends!" the NWS office in San Diego said.

According to FlightAware, an online flight tracker, there have been 5,363 delays for U.S. flights Sunday with 2,065 cancellations.

Around 20% of those flight cancellations were reported for flights arriving and leaving from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Georgia, according to FlightAware. contributed to this report

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