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Flood threat after snowstorms

A snowfall that brought huge snowdrifts and closed roads around Buffalo is finally expected to stop, but residents still faced the threat of rain and higher temperatures through the weekend that raised the possibility of flooding.

Roofs creaked and collapsed and homeowners toiled to clear waist-high snow drifts atop their houses today as another storm continued to bury Buffalo and western New York state, which remained paralysed by the historic snowfall.

Even for the Buffalo area - one of America's snowiest places - the snowfall was historic, as the three-day total neared 8ft (2.4m), the amount the region typically gets over an entire year. Some areas got close to 3ft (0.9m) of new snow by this afternoon.

The storms were blamed for at least 12 deaths in western New York, mostly from exposure and heart attacks, including several people who were shovelling snow. The most recent victims were two elderly residents of a nursing home that was evacuated amid concerns of a roof collapse, deputy Erie county executive Richard Tobe said.

Things could quickly get worse for the region on Lake Erie. Rain and temperatures as high as 15.5C (60F) were forecast over the weekend, raising the spectre of flooding and an even heavier load on roofs.

Governor Andrew Cuomo begged drivers to stay off slippery, car-clogged roads in while crews tried to dig out.

With roads impassable, driving bans in effect and the Buffalo Bills' stadium buried in snow, the National Football League decided to move the Bills' Sunday home game against the New York Jets to Monday night in Detroit. Earlier in the day, Mr Cuomo said holding the game would jeopardise public safety.

More than 50 people were evacuated from several mobile home parks because roofs were buckling. In one town authorities said more than a dozen structures collapsed, as did a metal warehouse operated by a Christmas decorations company.

Local media reported that about 180 residents of an assisted living facility were evacuated after staff members noticed the ceiling bulging under the weight of the snow.

Homeowners and store employees around the region climbed onto roofs to shovel off the snow and reduce the danger.

National Guardsmen drove nurses to work their hospital shifts. State police helped elderly residents trapped in their homes. State officials assembled 463 plows, 129 loaders and 40 dump trucks from across the state.

A stretch of the New York State Thruway, the state's main highway, remained closed, with more than 300 truckers idled.

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