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Even the plows got stuck around the Buffalo area after a severe storm

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Of all the places pounded by cold weather over the weekend, Buffalo was among the worst hit. That we're even talking about snow in Buffalo on the national news says something because this city knows snow. When Buffalo has it bad, it is bad. New York Governor Kathy Hochul spoke on CNN of a storm that caused numerous deaths.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KATHY HOCHUL: This will go down in history as the most devastating storm in Buffalo's long, storied history.

INSKEEP: Wow, that's saying something. One reporter who's living this story is Ed Drantch of WKBW News in Buffalo. Welcome to the program.

ED DRANTCH: Hi, Steve. Good morning to you. Thanks for having me.

INSKEEP: Good morning. You came to my attention over the weekend because you posted a video just trying to describe your commute in Buffalo. Other people are home. You got to go to work. How's your commute been?

DRANTCH: This is now days after that video. Today is a completely different story. We still have a driving ban here in Erie County. And that's in place until further notice. There are certain places across western New York that have started to lift that travel ban. That said, the roads are still really dangerous to be out on. It's not just the snow that's drifted all throughout the area and the cars that are dotting the streets. It's the ice that's also under all of that snow, because if you remember, it was rain initially.

INSKEEP: Yeah.

DRANTCH: We had a flash freeze. And then the snow started falling. Mix that all together and you've got a deadly combination.

INSKEEP: When you talk about the cars, the abandoned cars dotting the streets, that strikes my attention again because I trust that people in Buffalo know how to drive in snow. This was something different, it sounds like.

DRANTCH: Well, and it's because this was such a dire situation as well. In certain cases, many people thought that they could brave the elements and make it to where they were going only to come to realize there was an absolute whiteout. This was like nothing I've ever seen before. And I've lived in Buffalo now 11 years. The county executive was describing it as holding a white sheet of paper in front of your face for minutes at a time. Try driving like that. You're blinded. You have no idea where you're going, where you are. It's disorienting. People literally had to get out of their cars, leave them where they are and find another way to get to where they were going, hopefully home.

INSKEEP: Are there people at this point missing as well as dead?

DRANTCH: There are a number of people who've been reported dead. At least a dozen deaths so far in the city of Buffalo, the town of Cheektowaga, which is just outside the city of Buffalo, and a couple of other places as well. The fear at this point is there are more deaths that haven't been confirmed just yet. And when you think of that, your heart breaks for these families because in some cases, some of these people were found inside cars and because of the cold and because the snow drifts. They were buried in some cases. That's possible. But the idea that these people were helpless is something that is just gut-wrenching.

INSKEEP: Are you hearing stories of people inside their homes without heat at this point?

DRANTCH: Absolutely. There are still, this morning, more than 10,000 national grid customers in the city of Buffalo without power. And those people have been without power, in some cases, for days now. Grocery stores aren't open in the city of Buffalo right now. And they probably won't open again until tomorrow. The airport is closed until tomorrow. So people aren't even coming to or from even for holiday travel. The city was at a standstill for the last three days.

INSKEEP: Ed Drantch of WKBW in Buffalo. Thanks so much.

DRANTCH: Thank you, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.