Families in western New York were in search of food, medicine, and other essentials on Monday after a historic snowstorm blocked roads and shut off electricity, shutting down many major supermarkets and pharmacies.
In Buffalo, where at least 18 people have died, the two largest supermarket chains have been closed since Friday as the latest forecast predicted an additional 6 to 12 inches of snow.
“There are no stores open. It’s anything you can grab,” said Scott McCandless, 54, who lives in Orchard Park, a suburb southeast of Buffalo.
Surrounded by snow on Sunday night, McCandless ate a bowl of generic cinnamon toast crunch for Christmas dinner. He became concerned in the morning when his supply of bread and eggs dwindled and his number of cans of meatball soup dropped to three.
“I just got low and I just got nervous,” he said.
When his driveway finally ploughed at 9 o’clock, McCandless set out to find open supermarkets. “I drove 3 miles, then 5 miles in my car and nothing was open,” he said. “I’ve given up.”
At Salvatore’s Garden Place Hotel, less than 5 miles from Buffalo Niagara International Airport, food offerings are shrinking as the hotel serves three meals a day to more than 80 guests.
“We’re trying to survive as much as we can,” said Leven Oxmaul, a front desk employee who has been snowing in since Thursday.
“We’re starting to run out of food,” Oxmaul said, adding that there are no more snacks or drinks in the hotel’s gift shop. “It is really frustrating. The guests are also losing patience. We can’t go anywhere. We’re buried in snow.”
The “unique” blizzard, which killed at least 57 people across the country, including 27 in Erie County in western New York, has left many in a dire situation.
Desperate pleas from Buffalo residents have flooded Facebook groups dedicated to recovering from the storm.
One person asked for replacement diapers for twin children and another for cold medicines for a sick toddler. Several people made urgent requests for baby food.
“I’m really running out of food and I’m stuck in our house,” wrote a Buffalo resident with four young children. “I panicked slightly when I looked outside and saw it snowing more.”
It is unclear when the major supermarkets in the Buffalo area will reopen.
On Monday, snow continued to cover Erie County and made roads impassable in many areas, including most of Buffalo, County Executive Mark Poloncarz said at a news conference.
About 10,000 people were still without power in Buffalo on Monday afternoon, Mayor Byron Brown said.
Poloncarz said he hoped that some suburbs could lift driving bans on Tuesday so that Tops Friendly Markets and Wegmans Food Markets could resume business.
In the meantime, according to Poloncarz, supermarkets were allowed to receive replacements while officials coordinated food shipments to emergency shelters, emergency workers and people stuck inside and who may run out of food.
“That’s a problem we’re working on,” said Poloncarz. “I empathize with the people out there. You have my deepest, deepest apologies.”
All Tops locations in Niagara County are currently open, the supermarket chain said. But at least 20 stores across the rest of Erie County were still closed Monday afternoon.
Wegmans did not immediately respond.
District and state officials said the devastation caused by the blizzard was not yet behind them.