“Historic” levels of snowfall and rising temperatures in the north-east US have caused a serious flood risk, officials say.
Hundreds of Americans have joined “shovel brigades” in order to reduce the risk of urban flooding as the snow melts. The city of Buffalo in New York is reported to have received as much snow in three days as it usually expects in a year, with some parts of the city experiencing more than 2.4m (8ft) of snow on the ground.
At least 13 people are believed to have died as a result of the excessive snowfall. As temperatures in the area rose to above freezing on Saturday, locals are more tensed about the flood drainage systems getting blocked with uncollected autumn leaves.
Flood warnings have been issued in New York, the counties of Erie, Genesee, Wyoming, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus.
Officials think the main concern is roof collapses caused by the weight of melted snow. More than 30 such incidents have already been reported and state governor Andrew Cuomo has emphasised the unpredictability of such conditions.
After touring the Buffalo area Cuomo said: “If the temperature goes up as quickly as they are forecasting, there is a potential for building collapses, significant flooding. We don’t have a crystal ball. We can’t say exactly whether there will be a flooding problem. We can’t say what kind of structure collapses we’re going to have. But we anticipate both to the same extent.”
Authorities are advising locals to put off any “non-essential” travel. Meanwhile, Buffalo is living up to its reputation as “the city of good neighbours”. Many groups of people have taken to the streets to help shift the melting snow away from residential and pedestrian areas.
61-year-old Buffalo resident Kevin Masterson praised other locals for their charity. Masterson said: “They’re like angels. I was out shovelling and all of a sudden I had all these people.”
Senator Charles Schumer has vowed to push for federal disaster assistance for the Buffalo area in the case of dangerous flooding.
Thomas Rhys Jones