Updated Dec 27, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Biden approves New York emergency declaration over "blizzard of the century"

Citizens shovel snow after snowfall in Buffalo, New York, United States on December 26.

Citizens shovel snow in Buffalo, New York, on Monday. Photo: Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

President Biden approved New York's emergency declaration request in response to the destructive winter storm that's claimed at least 28 lives in the state's west, the White House said Monday night.

Threat level: Winter storm warnings were in effect until 1pm Tuesday for New York's Jefferson and Lewis counties, where up to 12 inches of snow could fall, per the National Weather Service. Additional snow accumulations of up to 7 inches were possible in the blizzard-devastated Eerie County, the NWS said.

A screenshot of a tweet from the N.Y. Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services featuring images of workers performing welfare checks in Eerie County residents.
Photo: New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services/Twitter

The latest: At least 28 people have died as a result of the storm, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said during a Tuesday news conference.

  • Some 100 military police are being brought in, along with additional troops from New York State Police and New Jersey State Police, to manage traffic control because "people just are ignoring the driving ban," per Poloncarz.

Driving the news: In granting New York Gov. Kathy Hochul's request, Biden ordered federal assistance "to supplement state and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions resulting from a severe winter storm beginning on December 23, 2022, and continuing," the White House said.

  • Biden's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate all disaster relief efforts.
  • Its purpose is "alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures," the statement added.

The big picture: Hochul declared an emergency last week ahead of the severe weather event that saw a blizzard pummel Buffalo.

  • Hochul described it as the most "devastating storm in Buffalo's long storied history."
  • Authorities said another person was found dead in the Niagara County town of Lockport, apparently from carbon monoxide poisoning.
A screenshot of New York Gov. Kathy Hochul's tweet thanking President Biden for his emergency declaration in response to the historic Buffalo blizard.
Photo: New York Gov. Kathy Hochul/Twitter

What they're saying: Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said Monday "the worst storm probably in our lifetime" was "not over yet," as forecasters warned severe weather would linger overnight.

  • Hochul described the storm system at a news conference as "the blizzard of the century."

Meanwhile, Biden spoke with Hochul earlier Monday to "offer the full force of the Federal government in support of the people of New York as the state grapples with the impacts of a historic winter storm," according to a White House readout.

  • "The President shared that his and the First Lady's prayers are with the people of New York and all those who lost loved ones," the White House added.
  • "He expressed his gratitude to the Governor for her leadership and to the National Guard, law enforcement, and first responders for their tireless work."

Of note: Hochul noted that climate change is increasing the frequency of extreme weather events in the U.S.

  • "Historic storms are no longer historic to us. That's become a way of life in our state and that’s a result of climate change," Hochul said. "All of us, in state and county-level government, know we have to prepare for the next big one."

Context: Climate change is increasing ocean temperatures, adding more moisture to the atmosphere and causing an uptick in heavy precipitation events (rain and snow) that may boost storm intensification rates, per Axios' Andrew Freedman.

What to expect: "Lingering cold air will continue to support accumulating lake snows east and northeast of both lakes overnight and Tuesday," the National Weather Service's Buffalo office said in a forecast discussion Monday night.

  • After that, "a marked pattern change" will see significant warming through the remainder of the week, with high temperatures for most areas Friday through New Year's Day expected to "reach into the 50s," the NWS said.

Editor's note: This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

Go deeper