Over the holiday break, a once-in-a-generation blizzard hit Buffalo, New York, resulting in power outages, fatalities and many questions. Buffalo officials prepared themselves for another storm with a small group of emergency responders and supplies, but they never could have predicted what was to come. Prior to the storm, AccuWeather Meteorologist Jake Sojda said, “The snow, coupled with wind gusts approaching hurricane force, will create enormous drifts and impossible travel.” The deadly mix of wind and snow will be embedded in history and the minds of citizens forever. Buffalo is accustomed to some snow every once in a while, but this storm hit them particularly hard. ABC News said, “The icy wind chill and the plunging temperatures left Buffalo in minus 10 and minus 30 degree weather for days.” The combination of hurricane-force winds and lake-effect snow resulted in a fatal storm leaving buffalo citizen’s in shambles.
The storm lasted about four days and left up to 50 inches of snow in parts of Buffalo. While Buffalo weather officials did have a travel advisory, there was not an outright travel ban until it was too late. Many people, including emergency response teams, were left in their cars or stranded on the icy streets resulting in at least 40 fatalities. Now officials are facing many questions from the public. What more could have been done? Why weren’t they prepared? Had the county waited too long to shut down roadways resulting in the deaths of citizens?
Along with the Buffalo citizens, around 150 million people across the United States (U.S.) faced abnormally frigid conditions this winter. U.S. President Joe Biden declared a federal emergency for the state of New York in an effort to recover what had been lost. Many states, like California and Oklahoma, declared a state of emergency and some states even activated the National Guard to help combat the effects of the winter storms. Millions were left without power as the winds and blizzard conditions took out power lines and grids. These extremely frigid conditions are responsible for more than twice as many deaths as extreme heat according to a Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report. So far at least 56 storm-related deaths are reported across the U.S according to CNN.
Buffalo experienced a “bomb cyclone” which is the most intense breed of mid-latitude storm. Due to the recent drop in temperatures and extreme weather conditions, scientists question what the cause is. According to The Washington Post, new research reveals that global warming and climate change could be to blame. The Arctic is warming at an alarming rate due to the global emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide according to the New York Times which would cause the Arctic air to move southward. The rising global temperatures creates warmer winters than normal, but on the other hand it changes the atmospheric patterns. This change pushes outbreaks of the arctic polar air to shift into other climates. Due to global warming, these polar vortex outbreaks are not expected to stop.