Buffalo hit with six feet of snow as frigid temperatures blast the U.S.

Posted at 6:29 AM, Nov 19, 2014
and last updated 2014-11-19 09:16:18-05

(CNN) — Snowstorms and record low temperatures whacked much of the country this week — and there’s more coming Wednesday.

Over half the country — 50.2% — had snow on the ground Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

Buffalo, New York, one of the hardest-hit, is buried under 6 feet of snow — and counting.

“This storm is basically a knife that went right through the heart of Erie County,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said. “I can’t remember and I don’t think anyone else can remember this much snow falling in this short a period.”

Another blast of cold air will hammer the Midwest and Northeast on Wednesday while the Southeast could see record lows as temperatures drop into the teens and 20s.

Snow fatalities

One of the storm-related deaths was a car accident, Erie County officials said. Three others were cardiac arrests the resulted from shoveling.

Some places have seen more than 5 feet of snow while others could see 7 1/2 feet more after another round of wintry weather hits this week.

The equivalent of a year’s worth of snow is going to pound some areas over a three-day period, Poloncarz said.

“It’s probably heavier than anything that we have seen in over 40 years, so it’s going to take some time to dig out,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said.

Trapped at the police station

The snow left people stranded in car and turned roadways into parking lots. It also forced residents to seek shelter in unusual places.

About 20 people took refuge at a fire station and 20 others holed up in a police station Tuesday night, authorities said.

And as they waited, those at the fire station got a teeny weeny gift.

A baby girl was delivered there when an ambulance was unable to take her mother to the hospital, Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield said.

“She was born, she’s safe and she’s healthy,” Whitfield said.

Trapped on a highway for over a day

For more than 24 hours, the Niagara University women’s basketball team sat on the side of a highway, unable to move. The team was on its way home from a game in Pittsburgh when it got stuck because of the snow.

In an interview via Skype with CNN’s Don Lemon, team members said they’d been stranded for 24 hours.

“The roads weren’t plowed. It got really bad really fast,” head coach Kendra Faustin said. “I’m assuming that somebody in the front of the line got stuck and everybody else had to stop, and that’s how we got where we are.”

For hours, she said, the snow was coming down so hard that they couldn’t see anything surrounding the bus.

“It seems to be getting better, (it’s) what we’re hoping,” she said. “But more importantly we’re just hoping to get on the move.”

Buffalo’s not alone

All 50 states registered temperatures below freezing Tuesday morning.

Traditionally warm states were not spared, either. Temperatures at Mauna Kea on Hawaii’s Big Island dipped to 31 degrees while Florida’s Panhandle was in the upper 20s, with freeze warnings in effect.

And it’s not over: Another surge of cold air will likely hit the Midwest and Northeast from Wednesday to Thursday. The Southeast could see record lows Wednesday morning as temperatures drop into the teens and 20s.

The cause of this mayhem: Arctic air pouring over the relatively warm Great Lakes waters is producing extreme lake-effect snows.

Lancaster, New York, has already received over 40 inches of snow, and it continues to snow 4 to 5 inches per hour.

Nationwide record

Tuesday was the coldest November morning since 1976, according to meteorologist Ryan Maue of WeatherBELL Analytics. The average overnight low for the Lower 48 states was 19.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Houses are literally buried here. #buffalosnow

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That’s unusual for this time of year, and is much more reminiscent of a pattern forecasters would expect to see in January or February.

In Buffalo area, a state of emergency is under effect, including a travel ban for 19 municipalities. Only emergency vehicles are allowed to travel.

This is only the first band of heavy snow in the Buffalo region. More snow is expected on Wednesday and Thursday, and the snowfall could rank high in the history of lake-effect snow events.