BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – At least 38 deaths connected to the Blizzard of ’22 have been confirmed by local officials as of Wednesday morning, with the majority coming within the City of Buffalo.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said the Medical Examiner’s Office has confirmed 37 storm-related deaths, and one more was reported from Niagara County. The death toll may continue to grow.
Poloncarz on offered condolences to families who lost loved ones “as a result of the worst storm that we’ve ever seen.” He said 28 of the deaths happened with the City of Buffalo, seven were in the suburbs of Amherst, Cheektowaga and Depew, and the location of one remained unknown.
Poloncarz said three of the victims — two men and one woman — have not yet been identified. If you are missing a loved one, you are urged to call your local police department.
The county also provided a breakdown of the cause of deaths in Erie County on Wednesday when the toll was 38:
- 17 were found outside
- 9 were from no heat
- 4 were from cardiac events due to shoveling or snow blowing
- 4 were in a stranded vehicle
- 3 was from an EMS delay
The Niagara County Sheriff’s office on Tuesday identified the man killed in the storm as Timothy M. Murphy of Lockport. They reported he died from carbon monoxide poisoning after heavy snow covered his furnace exhaust vent.
The Sheriff’s office said Kathy D. Murphy was also found unconscious in the residence. She remains in intensive care.
The death toll for the Blizzard of ’77 is most commonly reported as 29, though some sources cite less. Poloncarz said Monday this week’s storm was “the worst I’ve ever seen. And I did live through the Blizzard of ’77.”
The intensity of the Blizzard of ’22 appears to have surpassed that of the Blizzard of ’77, in terms of wind speed, snowfall and duration of whiteout conditions, though the region may be able to recover quicker this time. Wind gusts over the weekend reached hurricane force, topping 74 mph. The Buffalo Airport received more than 4 feet of snow. Blizzard conditions began Friday morning and lasted until Saturday night in some areas of the city before the snow band shifted south on Sunday, Christmas Day.
By contrast, the Blizzard of ’77 featured sustained winds of 46 mph with gusts up to 69 mph and 13 hours of whiteout conditions, according to a 2017 Buffalo News lookback story. The actual snow total was only about a foot, according to the story, but the iconic — or infamous — snow drifts from ’77 were a result of snow piling up on the ground and on a frozen Lake Erie, and blowing across the region. The lake froze early that year, in December, and snowfall totals in December and January were unusually high. When high winds blew all that snow across Western New York, drifts were said to be as high as second-story windows and power lines.
“I’d be shocked if we got another storm to compare to the Blizzard of ’77 in my lifetime, in my kids’ lifetime or even in their kids’ lifetime,” a National Weather Service meteorologist told the Buffalo News for their story five years ago. He called it a once-in-200-year weather event.
As of Tuesday afternoon, travel bans were reduced to travel advisories in all of Erie County, except the City of Buffalo, which was among the hardest hit and slowest to dig out. Grocery stores reopened Tuesday after being closed since Friday, and some public transit services resumed. The airport is closed through Wednesday morning.
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Nick Veronica is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a Digital Executive Producer in 2021. He previously worked at NBC Sports and The Buffalo News. You can follow Nick on Facebook and Twitter and find more of his work here.