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Rising temperatures and rainstorms had parts of western New York that were buried under seven feet of snow on flood alert Monday.
The National Weather Service issued flood warnings through Wednesday across several counties near Buffalo. Forecasters said early Monday that because the rainstorm expected to melt the snow was moving over the region faster than expected, the threat might not be quite as bad as initially feared.
"The melting has started and should go on for 16 to 18 hours," said Kevin Roth, lead meteorologist at The Weather Channel. "It's still too early to know how it will turn out for sure but right now it has not been as bad as we expected. The rain is moving quickly so will not be over the area for as long as was forecast."
The National Weather Service also cautioned that trees weakened by heavy snowfall and saturated soil could come crashing down. High wind gusts of up to 60 mph also could topple electrical wires and trigger power outages.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo warned on Sunday that some Buffalo residents should evacuate their homes. "Flooding, in my opinion, is worse than dealing with snow," Cuomo said. "It's not water. It's a toxic brew."
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State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a crackdown on price gouging, promising legal action against businesses that he said were increasing prices of food, gas and repair services by as much as 300 percent. At least one cease-and-desist letter has already been sent to an unidentified business, he said.
The National Weather Service said "a return to reality" will come by mid-week in the form of much colder temperatures.
Meanwhile, thousands of people across the Southeast were left without power after a chain of thunderstorms swept Louisiana to Georgia over the weekend, according to The Weather Channel. Tornado watches were issued, but no twisters were reported. By Monday the storm had all but finished, with lingering threats of storms in the eastern Carolinas, Roth said.
The Associated Press and M. Alex Johnson of NBC News contributed to this report.