At least 28 people have been killed in Buffalo during the worst snowstorm in decades, turning the city into a “war zone”.
"This is a war with mother nature, and she has been hitting us with everything she has," said Kathy Hochul, New York’s governor, on Monday.
"It is like going to a war zone, and the vehicles along the sides of the roads are shocking."
There are fears the death toll could rise further once rescuers can reach the worst-hit areas where cars have been trapped in the snow.
“This is the worst storm probably in our lifetime and maybe in the history of the city, and it’s not the end yet,” said Mark Poloncarz, Erie County executive.
“It’s a generational storm that, unfortunately, we haven’t begun to really assess its full toll," he said.
Mr Poloncarz added that several of those who died were found in their cars, while others who were trying to shovel snow had “cardiac-related events”.
A 27-year-old man died from carbon monoxide poisoning after heavy snow blocked the furnace.
Buffalo residents laid bare the chaos that the storm has wrought on the state’s second-largest city.
“We just got back into our house. We did the mile trek to get there. The snow is so heavy that snow ploughs can’t get through,” Buffalo resident Lauren Wickert told The Telegraph.
“There are abandoned cars everywhere no one is listening to the driving ban. Some are using regular cars, which is just insane.”
It is estimated that at least 55 people across the US have been killed in the snowstorm that blanketed the US from the Rio Grande in the south to the Great Lakes in the north.
Deaths have been recorded in 12 states - Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Wisconsin.
The cold snap caused chaos at America’s airports, with more than 1,200 flights cancelled.
According to the National Weather Service, hazardous conditions will continue for another day.
“Much of the eastern US will remain in a deep freeze through Monday before a moderating trend sets in on Tuesday,” it said.
“The life-threatening cold temperatures and in combination with dangerous wind chills will create a potentially life-threatening hazard for travellers that become stranded, individuals that work outside, livestock and domestic pets.”
More than 200,000 people across several eastern states woke up without power on Christmas morning and many more had their holiday travel plans upended, although the five-day long storm featuring blizzard conditions and ferocious winds showed signs of easing.
Due to frozen electric substations, some residents were not expected to regain power until Tuesday, with one substation reportedly buried under 18ft of snow, said a senior county official.
One couple in Buffalo, across the border from Canada, told AFP on Saturday that with the roads completely impassable they would not be making a 10-minute drive to see their family for Christmas.
"It's tough because the conditions are just so bad ... a lot of fire departments aren't even sending out trucks for calls," said 40-year-old Rebecca Bortolin.