Families are beginning to speak out about the more than three dozen tragic losses of loved ones – some just steps from their homes – in a historic blizzard that pummeled western New York over the weekend.
Of the 37 confirmed deaths in Erie County, 17 people were found outside, nine were in a home with no heat, four were in a vehicle, four were from cardiac events while shoveling or snow blowing and three were from a delay in emergency medical services, according to County Executive Mark Poloncarz.
Poloncarz said 29 of the deaths happened in the City of Buffalo, seven were in the suburbs and one is unknown. There are multiple unidentified bodies, he noted, and authorities are still going door to door to check on people.
At least one person also died in nearby Lockport, in Niagara County, from carbon monoxide poisoning, officials there said.
Here are some of the victims and their stories.
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Carolyn Eubanks’ home had no heat or electricity. The 63-year-old had a heart condition that required her to be hooked up to an electric oxygen machine, but she lost power during the storm, The Buffalo News reported. Emergency services were unavailable because of the blizzard, the outlet reported.
Knowing she wouldn’t survive the storm in her own home Saturday, her son Antwaine Parker and his stepbrother Kenneth Johnson drove from Cheektowaga to Eubank’s home in Lovejoy, New York, The Buffalo News reported.
They gathered Eubanks from her home and began the trek back to their car, but she quickly became fatigued, the outlet reported. “She’s like, ‘I can’t go no further.’ I’m begging her, ‘Mom, just stand up.’ She fell in my arms and never spoke another word,” Parker told The Buffalo News.
Parker pounded on the doors of nearby homes for help. One couple, David Purdy and Cassieopia Layhee, let Parker in and tried to help resuscitate Eubanks. It was to no avail. Purdy and Layhee sheltered Eubanks’ body in their home for an entire day until first responders came Sunday, the outlet reported.
Eubanks is survived by Parker, four stepsons, two stepdaughters and “many grandchildren and great-grand children,” The Buffalo News said. “She loved her grandkids, spoiled them rotten,” Parker said.
Buffalo mother went out on Christmas Eve
Monique Alexander, 52, told her daughter she’d be right back when she went out on Christmas Eve, CNN reported. Her body was discovered a few hundred feet from her house.
“We were waiting for her to come home,” Alexander’s daughter, Casey Maccarone, told CNN. “I knew something was wrong right away though, so I kind of accepted it instantly, but it’s hard knowing that she was outside for so long, too, because there were no emergency responders allowed to come outside.”
Maccarone told the outlet she grew worried when her mother did not return hours later and posted about the situation to a Facebook group for Buffalo residents. That’s when a stranger saw the post and informed Maccarone he had seen Alexander in the snow.
“My kids they lost their grandmother, and that was her most important role in her life… being a good grandmother,” Maccarone told CNN. “And now they just have memories.”
Refugee from Congo froze on street
Sharifu grew up amid war in Congo, which left both his parents dead, the outlet reported He and his cousin fled as young boys, spent years at a Burundi refugee camp and eventually reached the U.S. in 2017, the outlet reported.
They were placed in Buffalo, where Sharifu met his wife there and was expecting his first child, the outlet reported.
When Sharifu still hadn’t returned the following day, friends and neighbors fanned out and searched for over 12 hours, visiting grocery stores, corner markets, hospitals and even jails, the Post reported.
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Refugee from Poland got stuck in her car
Stanislawa Jozwiak, 73, had been driving to a market across town Friday when her car slid off the road, the Washington Post reported. Her body was found inside the car Christmas Day.
Jozwiak’s daughter, Edie Syta, told the outlet it was possible her mother (who wasn’t fluent in English) did not understand the severity of the storm warnings.
“So many families are going to be broken,” Syta said. “And they’re never going to look at Christmas the same.”
Woman was just minutes from home
Anndel Taylor, 22, was a six-minute drive from home Friday when she became stranded, CNN reported. She had been coming home from work at a senior citizen center.
Taylor had moved to Buffalo from Charlotte, North Carolina, the outlet reported. When she became trapped, she sent a video to a group chat with her sisters, showing them she was stuck, CNN reported.
Taylor called 911 and was waiting for first responders, the outlet reported. She sent a final video to her family on Christmas Eve, CNN said, and her family panicked as she stopped responding to messages and calls.
Her body was removed from the car the next day, the outlet reported.
“I really didn’t believe it,” Tomeshia Brown, one of Taylor’s older sisters, told CNN. “It was like a piercing feeling in my stomach, a pain I’ve never felt before.”