The perfect storm of fierce snow squalls, howling wind and sub-zero temperatures forced the cancelation of more than 15,000 US flights in recent days, including nearly 4,000 on Monday, according to tracking site Flightaware.com.

Buffalo — a city in Erie County that is no stranger to foul winter weather — is the epicentre of the crisis, buried under staggering amounts of snow.

“Certainly it is the blizzard of the century,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul told reporters, adding it was “way too early to say this is at its completion.” Hochul said some western New York towns got walloped with “30 to 40 inches (0.75 to one meter) of snow overnight.” Later on Monday, Hochul spoke with President Joe Biden, who offered “the full force of the federal government” to support New York state, and said he and First Lady Jill Biden were praying for those who lost loved ones in the storm, according to a White House statement.

Biden also approved an emergency declaration for the state, the White House said.

“Temperatures are expe­cted to moderate across the Midwest and the East over the next few days ahead of this system,” the National Weather Service said in its latest advisory early on Tuesday, but warned that “locally hazardous travel conditions” would persist.

Zero visibility

National Guard members and other teams have rescued hundreds of people from snow-covered cars and homes without electricity, but authorities have said more people remain trapped.

Drivers were being warned not to take to the roads — even as the nation reached what is usually its busiest time of year for travel.

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