An assisted-living home in West Seneca was all but buried by a storm in western New York that left at least seven dead. Credit Maj. Mark Frank/US National Guard, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

BUFFALO — Liza Smith knows snow. But she had never seen anything like what she encountered on Tuesday morning on the New York State Thruway.

Just outside of Buffalo, she ran smack into a towering wall of white, the edge of one of the most powerful winter storms ever to descend on the region.

Within hours, several people were dead. As five feet of snow blanketed the region, schools and government offices were closed, sporting events were postponed, and hundreds of people, including Ms. Smith, were stranded across a stretch of western New York just south of Buffalo.

Ms. Smith and her daughter, Chloé, stopped in the Thruway’s left lane and were trapped in the car for more than a day. With spectacularly large flakes continuing to fall furiously outside, burying the car ever deeper, she called 911 and the Thruway Authority.
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“I saw a couple of snowmobiles and a plow truck go by, but no one else over those 25 hours,” Ms. Smith said.

She was eventually rescued, but it was, she said, the scare of her life, in a storm that left snowdrifts as high as houses and transformed whole towns into indistinguishable mounds of white.

At least seven people died as a result of the weather, according to local authorities. Four of the victims had cardiac problems, including an elderly man who needed treatment but could not be taken to a hospital in time. In Erie County, which includes Buffalo, a 46-year-old man was found dead inside his car buried under 15 feet of snow in Alden, according to county officials.

With another blast of snow expected overnight, dumping as much as three more feet of snow in some places, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo warned that people could be trapped inside for days.

“It will get worse before it gets better,” Mr. Cuomo said.

In the modern-day version of a sending an S.O.S., scores of people posted pictures on Twitter showing the wall of white that greeted them when they opened their front doors. Some took a playful attitude, carving out shelves in the snow to create natural refrigerators.


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