Christmas storm breaks records in US lakeside city

A general view of 1925 State Street after the record snowfall in Erie, Pennsylvania, US on Dec 26, 2017.
A general view of 1925 State Street after the record snowfall in Erie, Pennsylvania, US on Dec 26, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Dreams of a white Christmas have turned into a nightmare in the north-eastern US city of Erie after a storm dumped a record-breaking 1.5m of snow in a 48-hour period, forcing officials to declare an emergency.

Residents took to social media to post stunning photos of the whiteout, with meteorologists attributing the 1.5m of snow that fell over Christmas Day, Monday, to 5pm on Tuesday to icy winds blowing over the adjoining Lake Erie, one of North America's Great Lakes.

More snow was expected at a rate of up to 5cm per hour as residents were warned to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary and pack emergency kits including tow ropes, flashlights, shovels and flares for essential travel.

Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf announced in a statement that the state national guard was "providing high clearance all terrain military vehicles to aid local agencies with medical emergency and law enforcement response".

According to data from the National Weather Service, the 86cm of snow that fell on Dec 25 was the highest the city had ever recorded, eclipsing the previous high of 51cm on Nov 22, 1956.

The two-day snowfall of 1.5m, which was still ongoing, also surpassed a previous state record of 1.1m set in Morgantown on March 20 to 12, 1958.

"The crews are out, but quite simply they can't keep up with the amount of snow that's falling," said Matt Exley, a local emergency official on a Facebook live post.

Erie meanwhile has received 245cm of snow in December, making it the snowiest month in the city's history - which usually averages about 254cm of snow in an entire season.

Residents posted pictures reminiscent of a bleak polar landscape, dubbing the phenomenon #Snowmageddon on Twitter.

Vehicles were buried and visibility was limited in some areas to just a few feet.

By Tuesday night the temperature had plunged to minus 10 deg C, with the lake-effect snow warning forecast to continue through Wednesday, potentially adding an additional 12cm to 25cm of snowfall.