-- The early winter snow that has buried parts of the Buffalo area has become a deadly storm blamed for the deaths of four people in Erie County.
Dozens of vehicles, including a bus carrying the Niagara University women's basketball team, have been stranded and even snow plows are getting stuck in the deep snow.
The storm has dumped more than 4 feet of snow in places and has been accompanied by high winds creating bone chilling conditions and thick drifts.
Three of the people who died in the storm suffered heart attacks, and two of those were shoveling snow at the time, officials said. A fourth person was pinned by a car while trying to push it out of the snow, according to the Associated Press.
The New York National Guard was deployed to help the Buffalo area dig out.
Officials said that 150 vehicles, many still filled with freezing drivers and passengers, were immobilized on snow packed highways, some for more than 24 hours. Among the stranded were the 25 players and coaches of Niagara University's women's basketball team. During their day-long wait, the players got so thirsty they drank melted snow, coach Kenra Faustin told the Associated Press.
The bus was returning from a loss in Pittsburgh when it ground to a halt about 2 a.m. Tuesday. So far, no rescuers have arrived.
More than 100 miles of the New York State Thruway was closed because of the choking storm.
There is no relief in sight, the weatherman warned. The storm is forecast to continue through Wednesday and the hardest hit areas could end up with 6 feet of snow.
The snow came down at a rate of 4 to 5 inches an hour as a result of what is known as lake effect snow -- when moisture-rich air blowing off the Great Lakes dumps precipitation when it reaches land. Buffalo residents said this is the worst storm in recent memory.
Another characteristic of lake effect snow is that it is not distributed over a wide area. While the town of Alden had 48 inches by late morning today, areas a few miles away, including downtown Buffalo, had just a couple of inches.
State troopers spent much of today delivering blankets to drivers trapped in their cars along the New York State Thruway, according to the Associated Press. The highway has been shut down for the duration of the storm.
And the storm shows little signs of easing. A snow advisory has been issued for the rest of the week.