As the state struggles to recover from a severe winter storm that has claimed more than twenty-dozen lives, President Biden has approved an emergency declaration for western New York.
To free up federal resources and order the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate relief efforts, Biden declared an emergency on Monday for the counties of Erie and Genesee.
The president had earlier in the day speaking with Democratic New York Governor Kathy Hochul and offered her state’s full support as it deals with the storm, according to a readout from the White House. Hochul said Biden agreed to “swiftly approve” the state’s request for a federal declaration, calling it “crucial to assist our recovery efforts from this historic storm.”
Hochul had declared a state of emergency in New York last Thursday ahead of the storm. According to a statement from the White House, the President expressed that the people of New York and all those who lost loved ones are in his and the First Lady’s prayers.
He thanked the Governor for her leadership and the National Guard, law enforcement, and first responders for their tireless efforts. The Associated Press reported on Monday that 28 people had died due to the storm in New York, which is about half of the total fatalities linked to the storm that swept the nation over the Christmas holiday.
There are many fatalities in and around Buffalo in Erie County, New York. “I regret to inform you that the winter storm claimed the lives of at least 20 residents of our city.”
Byron Brown, the mayor of Buffalo, tweeted on Monday, “Please stay safe.” Eighteen storm-related fatalities were reported over the weekend in Erie and Niagara counties before the number surpassed two dozen on Monday. As of Monday afternoon, some parts of western New York had received up to 49 inches of snow, and local officials have issued an additional snowfall warning.
In some ways, this disaster could end up being worse than the blizzard of 1977, according to Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, who spoke at a press conference on Sunday. The governor has also sent more than 400 members of the National Guard to help with relief efforts in western New York.
In a statement, Hochul urged residents of the affected areas to continue staying off the roads and keeping tabs on family members and neighbors while Western New York continues to recover and waits for federal assistance.