7 deaths blamed on snowstorm expected to dump 6 feet in Buffalo

BUFFALO – A ferocious lake-effect storm left the Buffalo area buried under 6 feet of snow Wednesday, trapping people on highways and in homes, and another storm expected to drop 2 to 3 feet more was on its way.

Even hardened Buffalo residents were caught off-guard by the early-season storm that was expected to end by Wednesday afternoon. The storm came in so fast and furious it trapped more than 100 vehicles on a 132-mile stretch of the state Thruway in western New York that remained closed Wednesday.

“It was a huge crash. We all started running back there. We actually thought that it was the roof coming down in the house,” said Chrissy Gritzke Hazard, who was home with her husband, five children and three of her children’s friends Tuesday. “We were definitely not expecting it to be the doors blown out, the frame, everything, inside the house.”

The snowstorm shifted slightly into Buffalo’s northern suburbs Wednesday morning, giving the hardest hits areas a bit of a reprieve, but forecasters said a second round of lake-effect snow could deliver an additional 2 feet or more into Thursday.

Cold weather enveloped the entire country Tuesday, leading to record-low temperatures more familiar to January than November. Racing winds and icy roads caused accidents, school closings and delays in municipal operations from the Midwest to the South even where snowfall was low or mercifully absent.

The storm was blamed for five western New York deaths, three of them heart attacks. Erie County officials said a 46-year-old man was discovered early Wednesday in his car, which was in a ditch and buried in snow in the town of Alden, 24 miles east of Buffalo. It was unclear how he died.

Two other deaths were reported in New Hampshire and Michigan.

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