Emergency crews in New York were scrambling to rescue residents from what authorities called the blizzard of the century, a relentless storm that has left 27 dead in the state and took at least 60 lives nationwide, according to an NBC News tally.
In New York state, authorities have described ferocious conditions, particularly in Buffalo, with hours-long whiteouts, bodies being discovered in vehicles and under snow banks, and emergency personnel going car to car looking for more motorists, alive or dead.
On Monday night, US president Joe Biden issued a federal emergency declaration for the state of New York, authorizing government assistance to bolster state and local recovery efforts.
My heart is with those who lost loved ones this holiday weekend. Biden said in a message earlier in the day that you are in my and Jill's prayers.
The governor of New York, Kathy Hochul, emphasised that it is important for people to stay home and stay off the roads. If anyone declares victory and says it is over, it is way too early to say, Hochul said, "The storm is coming back, we expect another six to 12 inches." Hochul said some western New York towns were walloped with 30 to 40 inches of 0.75 to 1 meter of snow overnight. Hochul told reporters that it was not the blizzard of the century and that it was too early to say this is at its completion. Hochul, a Buffalo native, said she was stunned by what she saw during a reconnaissance tour of the city.
It is like going to a war zone, and the vehicles along the sides of the roads are shocking, Hochul said, describing eight-foot 2.4 meter drifts against homes as well as snow plows and rescue vehicles buried in snow.
She said that this is a war with mother nature.
The perfect storm of snow squalls, howling wind and sub-zero temperatures forced the cancellation of more than 15,000 US flights in recent days, including at least 2,600 on Monday, according to tracking site Flightaware.com.
The National Weather Service forecast up to 14 more inches Monday, besides the several feet that have already left the city buried in snow, with officials struggling to get emergency services back online.
Erie County executive Mark Poloncarz told a press conference that the county's death toll will probably surpass that of Buffalo's blizzard of 1977, when nearly 30 people died.
He said that there would be more deaths from the ongoing storm.
The extreme weather sent temperatures to below freezing in all 48 contiguous US states over the weekend, including in Texas communities along the Mexico border where some newly arrived migrants have struggled to find shelter.
A Vermont woman struck by a falling branch, a seemingly homeless man found amid Colorado's subzero temperatures, and a woman who fell through Wisconsin river ice were reported all over the country, including an electrocuted utility worker and those killed in multiple car crashes.
On Christmas Day in Jackson, Mississippi, city officials announced that residents must boil their drinking water due to freezing and bursting water lines.
According to Tracker Poweroutage.us, nearly 1.7 million customers were without electricity in the biting cold at one point on Saturday. That number has dropped significantly, though there were still 50,000 without electricity on the US east coast by the end of the day Monday.
Road ice and whiteout conditions also resulted in the closure of some of the nation's busiest transport routes, including part of the cross-country Interstate 70 highway.
Even though the nation reached its busiest time of year for travel, drivers were warned not to take to the roads.