NEW YORK (AFP) - Fresh snowstorms struck the northeastern US on Thursday, paralysing communities in a rare mid-autumn blizzard that killed eight people and dumped more than 1.8m of snow near Buffalo.
The National Weather Service said an extra 60cm to 90cm of "lake effect snow," created when frigid air moves over warm lake waters, could fall on Thursday.
It said visibility was near zero and that thunder and lightning were likely to accompany the heaviest snow as a state of emergency and travel bans remained in place in western New York state.
The colossal snowfall has collapsed roofs, damaged homes and businesses, cancelled flights and stranded motorists for as many as two nights on the highway, including New York rock group Interpol.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said it may even be necessary to cancel an NFL football game on Sunday between the local Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets - sacrilege in a sport that many fans insist is most enjoyable when the weather is at its worst.
"At this point in time, doing what we have to do with the driving ban and everything we just said - staying off the roads - would make a Bills game impractical," he said.
Snowfall roughly equivalent to a year's supply of snow in two days saw the National Guard called up and could yet prompt a federal disaster declaration, local officials said.
Many of those who died lost their lives while working clear mounds of heavy snow from their cars and homes.
A man in his 60s died of a heart attack while trying to operate his snow blower, bringing to eight the number of deaths blamed on the blizzard, deputy Erie County executive Ricard Tobe said.
'DEFINITELY HISTORIC' SNOWFALL
"Very dangerous storm. One more day. Let's get through this snow. People - continue to be smart. Stay at home. Observe the driving bans," Tobe told a news conference.
The rock band Interpol said they were stranded more than 50 hours on their tour bus by the storm outside Buffalo, forcing them to cancel two consecutive nights of concerts in Montreal and Toronto.
"Finally just started making a move. 50+ hours later. Hoping for some luck today," the band tweeted Thursday morning.
Alex Cleary, a senior programme coordinator at the University of Buffalo, and her husband have been snow-bound at home for three days and Cleary told AFP the snow was still coming down.
"It is a little bit scary especially given that no one can really drive so if you need help it's a little tough," she told AFP.
Temperatures are expected to rise above freezing on Saturday, then shoot up bringing a deluge of rain which together with melting now bring severe flood warnings, officials said.
Dave Zaff, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service, told AFP that some areas south of Buffalo city received at least 1.8m to 2m of snow since the storm began.
"This is definitely historic," he said. But come the weekend "the main concern would be flooding," Zaff warned.