(Update 1: adds state of emergency in par 3, changes headline, lede)
Washington, Dec 26 (EFE).- The United States president on Monday night approved a declaration of emergency for the state of New York to free up federal aid for the alleviation of the impact of Winter Storm Elliott, while least 50 people have died in recent days across the country.
The storm has dumped heavy snow and brought severe winds to a large part of the country, plunging thermometers to their lowest Christmas holiday levels in decades.
Biden authorized the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency to “coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures” in New York state.
The area hardest hit by the storm has been the northwest of the state, where authorities on Monday raised to 27 the number of storm-related deaths, the bodies of the victims having been found in homes, trapped vehicles and out on the streets.
The city of Buffalo, New York, which borders on Canada and where people are accustomed to the cold, has completely shut down due to the heavy snowfall, and its airport remains closed.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said that this has been the most devastating storm in memory for the area and has called upon the public to avoid traveling anywhere by road.
Besides New York, deaths from the cold or road accidents have been registered in Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Wisconsin, according to local media.
In Ohio, four people died and several were injured in a large road accident involving some 50 vehicles.
The area covered by the storm has been almost unprecedented, extending from the Great Lakes down to the Rio Grande.
More than 200 million US residents have been under some kind of storm warning or advisory and temperatures have fallen far below normal from the Rocky Mountains east to the Appalachians.
The National Weather Service said that a large portion of the country will continue to experience frigid conditions on Monday but things will begin to moderate on Tuesday.
The NWS warned that in some areas it will remain “dangerous” to travel by road due to the snow, but it predicted that conditions will improve within a few days.
Elliott has caused thousands of flight delays and the cancellation of about 20 percent of the scheduled flights nationwide on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, when tens of thousands of people were traveling to spend the holiday weekend with their families.
In several cities along the east coast and even down as far south as Florida thermometers plunged to lows not seen since the Christmas holidays of 1983.
New York City experienced -10.5 C (13 F) on Christmas Day, a low not seen since 1872.
In Washington DC, the temperature stood at -10 C (14 F), the coldest Christmas in the nation’s capital since 1983, and thermometers in Tampa, Florida, fell to 0 C (32 F), something that has not happened since 1966.
At the worst point in the storm, reports are that 1.7 million customers were without electricity nationwide.
In Miami, the temperature fell to 10 C (50 F), temperatures very much below the average for this time of year, while in Jacksonville, the temperature was at 3 C (38 F) and in Ocala the thermometer stood at 0 C (32 F), at least during the daylight hours.
The low temperatures motivated Florida authorities to open shelters for the homeless and residents without electricity in Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough Counties.