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Major storm causes multiple problems including many deaths in and around Buffalo

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

More than 30 people have died because of the winter storm that has knocked out power and stranded travelers across most of the United States. And many of those deaths are concentrated in or near Buffalo, N.Y. The mayor of Buffalo is Byron Brown, and he's on the line. Mayor, welcome to the program.

BYRON BROWN: It's good to be with you. Thank you very much.

INSKEEP: How is your city doing now that we're on the back end, it would seem, of this storm?

BROWN: The city is tough, resilient. We continue to focus on life safety, getting to stranded motorists that are stranded in their vehicles, emergency medical service calls at homes and working with our power company, National Grid, to assist them in getting to power stations to restore power to homes. There are people that have been without power since Friday. Temperatures have dipped to, in some cases, -22 degrees below zero with the wind chill. We've been able to help National Grid cut the power outages of Buffalo in half. At one time, over 20,000 people without power in the city of Buffalo. That number is now below 10,000. And we will continue to work aggressively and strategically with National Grid all day today to continue to reduce that number and get everyone's power restored.

INSKEEP: Mayor Brown, you mentioned motorists stranded in their vehicles. We are a few days into this. Is it your impression there may be people out there who've been stuck in their cars for days?

BROWN: Don't know the answer to that. We are going by car by car. We know that some vehicles have been abandoned. We have literally since Friday rescued over several hundred people in a variety of different circumstances. Police, fire, our plow drivers continue that work. In some cases because of impassable streets, we've had to set up strike teams working with plows to get to stranded vehicles to check them, to see if people are inside and then get those vehicles towed so that our lifesaving operations and street plowing operations can continue.

INSKEEP: How soon do you think the city might be back to normal?

BROWN: You know, this has been called a generational storm, a once-in-a-generation storm.

INSKEEP: Yeah.

BROWN: Sustained blizzard conditions for days, blowing and drifting snow - in some cases, over 48 inches of snow that has fallen, trees and power lines, poles that have come down. We're hoping to get back to normalcy this week. But this has been a very devastating and difficult storm, unlike anything that even the city of Buffalo is used to getting.

INSKEEP: I guess the airport is not even open yet, is it?

BROWN: The airport is not open. The airport will not open today. So people who are traveling out of and traveling to Buffalo will not be able to get out of Buffalo International Airport today.

INSKEEP: Byron Brown is the mayor of Buffalo, N.Y. Mayor, good luck to you and your city in the days ahead.

BROWN: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.