A travel ban in New York’s Erie County has been lifted, just days after it was imposed as a deadly blizzard swept across the region, reducing visibility to zero at times.
The ban, which went into effect on Friday, expired at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, according to officials.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown told reporters Wednesday night that the roads had improved enough to lift the ban.
“It’s been 6 days,” Brown explained. “Some people haven’t been able to restock groceries, restock medications, or get to medical appointments because of the travel ban, and being able to lift it safely now will allow people to do those important things.”
Brown said that most streets in the city are passable, and that crews should have made a pass down the centre of every residential street by the end of the night.
Though the ban has been lifted, Erie County remains under a travel advisory as cleanup continues and a county-wide state of emergency remains in effect. Brown urged people to be cautious and to avoid driving unless absolutely necessary.
More than 450 pieces of equipment were ploughing and hauling snow on Buffalo streets, he said, and many traffic signals remained inoperable.
According to the National Weather Service, the storm dumped up to 20 inches of snow in parts of New York, including nearly 52 inches at Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
The powerful storm froze much of the United States, causing life-threatening conditions as more than 1 million homes and businesses were left in the dark and causing havoc on flight schedules during the busy holiday travel week.
According to an NBC News tally, the storm killed at least 76 people. Erie County was responsible for 37 of the deaths, with Buffalo accounting for 29 of them.
Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Ohio, Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma, Michigan, South Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Vermont also reported weather-related deaths.
Officials in Buffalo warned that the figure could rise.
According to Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia, officers have cleared the backlog of calls relating to welfare checks, stranded motorists, and reports of bodies.