A severe winter storm that has swept across North America has left the city of Buffalo, New York, looking like a war zone, the state governor has said.
Yesterday, the city recorded 25 weather-related deaths, up from 13 on Sunday.
“This is a war with mother nature and she has been hitting us with everything she has” since Thursday, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul said.
Blizzard conditions, which stretched from Canada to the Mexican border, have killed at least 50 people nationwide.
The region around Buffalo, in upstate New York, has been worst affected.
Governor Hochul, a native of Buffalo, said: “It is (like) going to a war zone, and the vehicles along the sides of the roads are shocking.”
She said residents were facing a “life-threatening situation”, as many emergency vehicles were unable to reach worst-hit areas or got stuck in snow themselves.
One family with young children – aged 2 to 6 – had to wait for 11 hours before being rescued in the early hours of Christmas Day.
“I was basically just hopeless,” the father, Zila Santiago, told CBS News. He said he had managed to stay warm by keeping the engine running and kept distress at bay by playing games with the children.
More victims are expected to be discovered once melting snowdrifts reveal trapped vehicles and allow access to remote homes.
Governor Hochul, who spoke to Joe Biden yesterday, said the US president had offered “the full force of the federal government” to support New York state.
The “bomb cyclone” winter storm – which occurs when atmospheric pressure plummets, causing heavy snow and winds – has disrupted travel across the US.
Forecasters say it will ease off in the next few days, but the advice remains to avoid travelling unless essential.
Over the weekend an estimated 250,000 homes and businesses experienced blackouts – although power has been steadily restored.
Storm-related deaths were also reported in Vermont, Ohio, Missouri, Wisconsin, Kansas, and Colorado. South Florida’s temperatures dropped so low, that iguanas froze and fell from trees.
The western US state of Montana was the worst hit by the cold, with temperatures dropping to -50F (-45C).
In Canada, the provinces of Ontario and Quebec are bearing the brunt of the storm.
Four fatalities occurred when a bus rolled over on an icy road near the town of Merritt, in the western province of British Columbia.