A 56 year-old father has been identified as the first victim of the historic winter storm that has frozen much of the US, after apparently freezing to death on a Buffalo street.
William ‘Romello’ Clay had been missing since midnight on Dec 23 after leaving his home in treacherous winter conditions to get to a store, according to loved ones.
A devastating video of a dead man lying face down in the snow at Bailey and Kensington Avenue emerged in the late afternoon of Christmas Eve. Those remains were later identified as Clay’s ,with his family pleading for people to avoid sharing the macabre clip.
A post appealing for help prior to the news of his death revealed that Clay might not have been on his medication when he left home, although further details of underlying health conditions have not been shared.
Video shared Saturday night showed that Buffalo is still being pummeled by snow. More than a foot has fallen so far, although wind whipping off Lake Erie has created huge drifts rising as high as the rooflines of some local single-story houses.
Clay is one of three people known to have died in Buffalo. The other two victims, still unidentified, are believed to have passed away because first responders were unable to reach them during medical emergencies, details of which have not been shared.
A total of 23 people have been killed by the historic storm across the US, although that figure is likely to rise further, with many people left trapped in homes without heating or electricity for days.
Tributes flowed across Facebook for the devastating loss to the community. His son, Jules Clay, who goes by Cadean, posted saying that the pain of the loss had floored him.
‘This pain is overwhelming. I can’t stop crying. Grateful I spoke to him and told him I love him yesterday,’ he wrote.
‘This is our friend that lost his life during the blizzard on his birthday,’ one friend wrote.
‘RIP to Romello the man that was found dead on Bailey & Kensington. May your soul rest in paradise soldier,’ wrote another.
Earlier posts from family, pleaded for any information on Romello’s whereabouts.
‘Our brother is missing. From area around Rounds and Bailey. He frequents 7 Eleven on Bailey. If he comes to your door please help him,’ wrote one relative.
‘Anyone with any info please call me on messenger. Please pray for his safety. He goes by the name Romello.’
Another relative wrote: ‘My nephew’s father is missing since midnight last night! He went to the store. William Clay is his name – and may not be on his medication. If you see him please give him shelter!’
A GoFundMe page set up by the family shows beloved Romello wearing a pink dress shirt with the hope to raise $3,000 for burial expenses.
‘Hi, my name is Sophia. I am the sister of the gentleman that lost his life during the 2022 Blizzard on 12/24/2022,’ the description on the page reads.
‘My brother unexpectedly lost his life on his Birthday. I am humbly asking for donations to bury my brother.’
A Buffalo Police spokesperson said earlier that due to blizzard conditions officers were still coordinating efforts to retrieve the body.
The cause of death is still not known at this time and an autopsy will need to be conducted to determine a cause.
Ice covers the Lake Erie shoreline on December 24, 2022 in Hamburg, New York. The Buffalo suburb and surrounding area was hit hard by the winter storm Elliott
Meanwhile, a American Medical Response team in Western New York allegedly had one of their paramedic supervisor fly cars stolen after it was stuck in snow.
AMR said the vehicle, a Chevy Tahoe with standard AMR markings that is identified as Medic 21, was stuck in snow on William L Gaiter Parkway in Buffalo less than a mile from the organization’s office.
After the Buffalo Department of Public Works sent a loader to dig the vehicle out, by the time AMR workers returned to retrieve it, it had been stolen.
AMR is asking the public not to approach the vehicle and to notify the authorities if it is spotted.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said the blizzard could be ‘the worst storm in our community’s history.’
As of 7 pm Saturday, over 28 inches of snow was measured at Buffalo Airport, according to the National Weather Service, and more is expected to fall on Saturday night into Sunday.
‘It’s very clear to me that the effects of climate change are wreaking havoc everywhere from the streets of Queens with flooding, all the way up to the City of Buffalo,’ Democrat New York Governor Kathy Hochul said during a press conference on Saturday.
‘But it is life-threatening, what is going on as we speak in Buffalo. Getting calls through the night from frightened neighbors where the temperature’s been off for many, many hours.’
Portions of Hamburg, a suburb of Buffalo, were evacuated on Friday due to potential flooding in the low-lying area.
Because of the winter storm, Buffalo Airport closed its doors until Monday at 11 am.
The same powerful storm that brought blizzard conditions and severe cold to a large portion of the central United States has generated a major lake-effect snow event into the Christmas weekend.
Members of the National Guard were out in Erie County Saturday morning working to get people out of stranded cars, targeting the hardest-hit areas including Buffalo and the surrounding north towns.
A blizzard is defined by the National Weather Service as sustained or wind gusts to 35 mph or greater with visibility of one-quarter of a mile or less in snow or blowing snow for at least three consecutive hours.
The storm began as a rain event for Buffalo, with the city receiving 1.98 inches on Friday, breaking the prior daily record of 1.73 inches that had stood since 1878.
As Arctic air rushed in, however, rain changed to heavy snow Friday morning.
The Buffalo airport recorded zero-mile visibility for nearly 16 hours from midday Friday to the early morning hours of Christmas Eve.
Friday’s total snowfall ended at a record of 22.3 inches in the city, nearly doubling up the previous daily maximum snowfall record of 12.6 inches set in 1976.
A total of 28.1 inches of snow has been recorded so far at the airport as of Saturday afternoon.
A blizzard warning remains in effect for the metro area until 7 am Sunday as an intense lake-effect band will persist downwind of Lake Erie into Christmas Day.
Lake-effect snow develops when cold, dry air, often originating from Canada, flows across the relatively warmer waters of the Great Lakes.
The highest power outages across the United States as of 11pm Saturday were Maine (110,693), New York (38,041), Virginia (19,038), New Hampshire (18,056) and Pennsylvania (13,040), according to poweroutage.us.
Meanwhile, two major utility companies asked customers to cut back late Saturday amid the holiday weekend’s punishing below-freezing temperatures and strain on demand.
Con Edison and National Grid released alerts late Christmas Eve asking for cutbacks in gas and electricity use by its customers in New York.
‘The call for conservation covers Con Edison’s 1.1 million natural gas, 3.5 million electric customers and its steam customers in Manhattan and will remain in effect until further notice,’ the Con Edison alert read.
Temperatures plunged into the single digits on Saturday, wreaking havoc for many New Yorkers trying to dry out or shovel out from Friday’s winter storm.
The sudden drop in degrees has put a strain on utilities in addition to the increased demand for natural gas, Con Edison said.
The companies hope a voluntary reduction can help keep the lights on and offered the following tips on how to do so.
Setting the thermostats at the lowest comfortable temperature, each degree lower reduces energy usage and decreases heating costs.
Use appliances only as needed – turn off the lights in unoccupied rooms, turn off television sets, computers and other appliances that are not in use.
Hold off on using appliances such as dishwashers, washing machines and dryers until the conservation request is lifted, if possible.
Make sure heating vents are not blocked by furniture, carpeting or anything else that could obstruct the flow of heat.
The National Guard also made suggestions on how to reduce natural gas use.
Turn your thermostat down just five degrees for residences if you are at home, and to 60 degrees if you are not at home or operating a business.
If possible, avoid using fireplaces, clothes dryers and other appliances that use gas, which are not critical to safety or health.