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President Biden approves state of emergency in N.Y. over deadly Buffalo storm; N.J. sends aid

At least 32 dead after winter storm in western New York
At least 32 dead after winter storm in western New York 03:46

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The city of Buffalo continues to dig out of what many are calling the storm of the century. The mayor says the death toll is up to 32 and thousands are still without power.

After facing blistering cold, hurricane-force winds and blinding snow piled up higher than 4 feet, officials are calling the Christmas blizzard the worst winter storm to blow through the western New York city, but Mayor Byron Brown said there were some signs of improvement on Tuesday.

"We are now down to under 4,000 households that are still without power in the city of Buffalo. That is down from a high of over 20,000, but we will not rest," Brown said.

READ MOREAt least 27 dead in Buffalo from "once in a generation" winter storm

The storm has forced driving bans to continue in Buffalo and surrounding communities, with travel advisories everywhere else. Many on Buffalo's East Side are still stuck in their homes, while abandoned vehicles litter side streets and highways.

"Please, please, please, do not drive in the city of Buffalo unless you are emergency personnel," Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said.

Exasperated, Poloncarz expressed frustration that people are still going out on the roads despite all the warnings.

"People just are ignoring the driving ban. I don't know what to say at this point. We've been talking about this for days," Poloncarz said.

The National Guard and State Police were out enforcing the ban Tuesday night.

Watch Dick Brennan's report

Death toll rises from western New York winter storm 02:07

And Buffalo's mayor said there is a new concern as people continue to dig out: looting.

"The Buffalo Police Department has created an anti-looting detail. We have already made a number of requests. Pardon me, a number of arrests, and will follow up very aggressively, this looting," Brown said.

Some of the major grocery stores in Western New York reopened Tuesday and that is good news for many stuck in their homes, some of them without power since last Thursday, and county officials said they will do whatever it takes to get back to normal.

"I've authorized our departments, the offices, to spend what they need," Poloncarz said.

Buffalo city officials said shortages are not an issue. Some major grocery stores reopened Tuesday, and stores are said to be well-stocked with food and other essentials.

President Joe Biden has approved an emergency declaration for the state of New York following the deadly winter storm that killed at least 55 people nationwide.

The emergency declaration authorizes FEMA to get involved and to lend resources, as well as provide federal disaster relief for the costs of emergency protective measures.

New York State Police delivered ready-to-eat meals and water to Buffalo residents, and an Army National Guardsman now has an incredible story to share.

"Hey, there's a woman in labor and nobody can help her right now. So I decided to veer off course a little bit, go to her address, and ... her street was completed snowed in, at least waist-high in snow," Matthew Waldman said.

Waldman helped Danisha King bring a healthy baby boy into the world -- a true gift delivered despite the Christmas blizzard.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is lending a hand to help. 

Murphy dispatched New Jersey Task Force One to assist "because that's what neighbors do," Murphy wrote on Twitter. 

Parts of the state are buried in 4 feet of snow after the record-breaking storm with winds reaching nearly 80 mph.

"Total whiteout. I've never seen it going for days and days of wind and snow," said Lynda Kaczynski, who lives in Cheektowaga. 

Gov. Kathy Hochul, officials discuss deadly winter storm 36:57

Hundreds of cars are submerged in snow along the roads. Three of the confirmed weather-related deaths so far were people trapped in their cars. Police are still doing search and recovery.

"Some of our police officers have snow mobiles and skid steers and other equipment that they brought in on their own and they just went out and they started working through some of these," said Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia.

Buffalo's mayor called it a "once in a generation" storm.

At one point over the weekend, almost every firetruck in Buffalo was stranded in snowbanks. Video shows a payloader had to push a plow truck out backwards. 

"We still have scores and scores of vehicles that were abandoned when people left during the storm, where it's just in a ditch. They can't possibly get out," said Gov. Kathy Hochul. "Anyone who declares victory and says it's over, it is way too early to say."

On Monday, Nassau County sent nearly two dozen employees to Buffalo with police vehicles and emergency equipment.

Buffalo remains under a state of emergency with full recovery likely still days away.

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