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Buffalo's Roofs Creak After Winter Storm Dumps Seven Feet of Snow

Twelve deaths are now blamed on a massive snowstorm that dumped up to seven feet of snow on western New York.
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Twelve deaths are now blamed on a massive snowstorm that dumped up to seven feet of snow on western New York, leaving roofs creaking and raising concerns about potential flooding.

The latest victims of the historic storm were two residents of a Cheektowaga nursing home who passed away after they were evacuated because of worries about a sagging roof, NBC News affiliate WGRZ reported.

A second band of lake-effect snow battered cities and towns near Buffalo on Thursday, heaping more misery on people whose cars and even houses were buried. The looming threat of rain and higher temperatures through the weekend could mean melting, which could, in turn, cause floods. The specter of roofs collapsing under the heavy loads was also a worry.

Speaking to Reuters, Erie County Deputy Executive Richard Tobe warned that "there are buildings that are in danger."

The storm had already dumped more snow than many places see in a full season — even in wintry western New York. Some homes had the equivalent weight of two or three pickup trucks bearing down on their roofs.

"It's getting heavier," Cheektowaga resident Thomas Mudd Jr. told The Associated Press as he spent several hours with his wife shoveling 4 to 5 feet off their roof. "It's supposed to warm up and we're supposed to get rain on the weekend, which will make it even heavier. So I didn't want my roof collapsing."

Because the Buffalo area is so snowy, building codes require homes and businesses to be able to handle up to 50 pounds per square foot on their roofs, which would be about as heavy as a slab of concrete 4 inches thick, structural engineer Mark Bajorek told The Associated Press.

Little or no snow was expected in the area on Friday, and the forecast called for a chance of rain on Saturday and more on Monday along with temperatures approaching 60 degrees.

NBC News meteorologist Bill Karins warned that "rapid snowmelt and localized flooding" was likely in parts of western New York into early next week.

Meanwhile, authorities said Thursday that a 60-year-old man with a history of heart problems had a fatal heart attack while retrieving his snowblower in Cheektowaga and that two other people died outside their homes from apparent exposure to the cold, one in the Erie County town of Boston and the other in Niagara County. The early winter blast had been linked to a total of 10 deaths by early Friday.

States of emergency were in effect for 10 counties.

The storm dumped an estimated 220,000 tons of snow on Ralph Wilson Stadium outside Buffalo, piling it halfway to the crossbar in each end zone and forcing the National Football League to move Sunday's game between the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets. The league said Thursday that a new location hadn't yet been determined.

"If you ask me today, right now, my two cents would be it's impractical to do the game because it could jeopardize public safety," Cuomo told reporters. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said he couldn't guarantee that the usual complement of law enforcement officers and emergency vehicles would be available for the game.

The Bills had offered $10 an hour and free tickets to the game to anyone who volunteered to shovel out the stadium.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.