A heavy storm dumped a record four feet of snow on the US city of Erie on Christmas Day, forcing officials to declare a state of emergency.
The storm had brought 34 inches of snow on Monday and then another 19 inches on Tuesday, blanketing Erie and shattering the city’s previous records for snowfall in a single day, according to the National Weather Service.
The snowfall total was over four times the city’s previous all-time Christmas record of 8.1 inches and it also broke the record for most snowfall in one day in the city’s history, which was 20 inches on November 22, 1956.
Erie issued a snow emergency, citing “dangerous and impassable” roads and residents were asked to stay off streets until the snow stops and roads can reopen.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolfe was also planning on calling up national guardsmen over concerns ambulances may not be able to reach those in need, according to The Washington Post.
Erie Mayor Joe Sinnott said that he had never seen this much snow before. “We’re used to snow, don’t get me wrong,” Sinnott said. “But this amount, trying to deal with this, is very atypical.”
The huge snowfall total is a consequence of lake-effect snow, a weather phenomenon in which cold air combines with lake water to create narrow bands of powerful snow. The lake effect snow is expected to continue through Wednesday afternoon, the National Weather Service said.
A number of cars and homes were buried in snow, with some residents having to shovel their way out. Shops and childcare centres were closed. Some flights to and from the Erie International airport were cancelled.
The huge snowfall comes ahead of what forecasters said would be a bitterly cold few days for the US northeast and midwest.
In New York City, temperatures were stuck below 0ºC and wind chill advisories were issued for parts of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and New York.
Meteorologists said frostbite was possible with as little as 30 minutes of exposure.
Temperatures in Chicago hovered around -10ºC on Tuesday amid forecasts of sub-zero frigid arctic air and cold wind chills. Wind chill advisories were in place for all of North Dakota and Wisconsin, as well as swaths of South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan and Indiana.