As the cold deepened and urgency grew, emergency workers resorted to using snow plows to transport some residents to shelters, Ms. Hochul said.
“Everyone is like, ‘Oh, you’re from Buffalo, you’re used to this,’” said Tommy Bellonte, 37, who briefly emerged from his Buffalo home Saturday morning to check on a neighbor. “But you can’t get used to this.”
Americans in dozens of states on Saturday faced the frigid aftermath of the powerful, four-day storm that knocked out power to 1.5 million homes and businesses at its peak. The potent weather system, a “bomb cyclone” packing high winds intensified by a collision of air masses, upended travel plans for tens of thousands, forcing many to spend Christmas without heat, electricity or the company of family members.
Temperatures plunged into the single digits in central, southern and eastern states as the massive weather system swept north into Canada and frigid Arctic air settled in behind it. The cold set records for Christmas Eve in some places across the country, including in Baltimore, where the temperature plummeted to 8 degrees, and in Bluefield, W.Va., where it bottomed out at minus 9.
On Saturday, the fourth day of the storm, millions remained under winter storm or blizzard warnings. Half a million homes and businesses were still in the dark up and down the East Coast at midday Saturday, according to the website poweroutage.us; by day’s end, the total had declined to 320,000. Maine was the hardest hit, with 162,000 customers without service.
Some residents of beachfront areas in New York City also faced the prospect of leaving home for Christmas, after Friday’s storm surge caused heavy flooding in the Rockaways, swamping basement apartments, said Donovan Richards Jr., the Queens borough president.