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Flooding fears mount in New York state

Sunday, November 23, 2014 - 08:42

[WASHINGTON] Record-breaking snowfall that buried towns near Buffalo, New York, and killed at least 14 people posed a major flooding threat with temperatures forecast to rise.

Areas of western New York that got socked with more than two meters of snow this week are now are under a flood warning, the National Weather Service said on Saturday.

The zone was previously under a flood watch, which urges people to prepare for a possibility, while a more serious flood warning is issued when flooding is imminent or occurring.

The warning was in effect in northern Erie, Genessee, Wyoming, Chatauqua, Cattaraugus, southern Erie counties, including the cities of Buffalo, Batavia, Warsaw, Jamestown, Olean, Orchard Park and Springville.

More than 600,000 people live in the area, where thousands particularly in towns south of Buffalo have been trapped in their homes for nearly a week - unable to emerge from doors they cannot open due to heavy snowpack.

Authorities urged people to clear storm drains in front of their homes, and to get any valuables out of their basements.

In Lackawanna, National Guard troops were out enforcing the travel ban, officials said.

"Only the city of Buffalo south of Seneca Street, the city of Lackawanna and the town of Eden have driving bans now," tweeted Erie county executive Mark Poloncarz.

Snowfall roughly equivalent to a year's supply of snow in two days saw the National Guard called up and could yet prompt a federal disaster declaration, local officials said.

Many of those who died lost their lives while clearing mounds of heavy snow from their cars and homes.

And the massive weight of the snow was a key worry for many. Those who could shoveled flat and low-angled roofs, but many older residents were not physically able to do so.

The roof at the Flexovit machinery plant in Evans "collapsed" on Friday, Erie county authorities said. The plant appeared to have major structural damage, and a roof that has fallen in almost completely.

But the same county authorities have not yet addressed if people were inside, or whether people were evacuated at a time when many roads were blocked, and authorities' manpower stretched to the breaking point. Evans police declined requests for comment.

The rock band Interpol said they were stranded more than 50 hours on their tour bus by the storm outside Buffalo, forcing them to cancel two consecutive nights of concerts in Montreal and Toronto. AFP

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