Winter storm’s icy cold and wind knocks out power to over a million customers


A massive winter storm lashed the US with freezing temperatures, high winds and heavy snow on Friday, killing at least nine people, knocking out power to more than a million customers and ruining holiday plans from coast to coast.

The storm — which is expected to strengthen throughout Friday as it moves across the Midwest and East — is causing grim conditions on roads with low visibility and ice-covered streets. Coastal flooding is also a problem, especially along the coast in the northeast.

All modes of travel – planes, trains and cars – were disrupted: hundreds of kilometers of roads were closed and the number of flight cancellations was rising rapidly. In New York, flooding along the Long Island Railroad temporarily closed part of the Long Beach branch.

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“Christmas is canceled,” said Mick Saunders, a resident of Buffalo, New York, who was trapped for two hours in a blizzard that was expected to last until Sunday morning. “All the family and friends agreed it was safer that way.”

At least 9 deaths have been reported since Wednesday.

Three people were killed in separate crashes in north-central Kansas Wednesday night; One death has been confirmed as weather-related, and two are believed to be weather-related but require more investigation, according to Kansas Highway Patrol spokeswoman Lt. Candice Breshears.

In Kansas City, one person died after losing control of their Dodge Caravan on an icy road Thursday afternoon, according to the Kansas City Police Department. “The Dodge went down an embankment, over a cement retaining wall and landed upside down and submerged in Brush Creek,” police said in a statement.

Gov. Andy Beshear said three people died in Kentucky as a result of the storm, including two in car crashes, and another was a “housing insecure” person in Louisville. The man’s body was found outside with no obvious signs of injury, and an autopsy will determine the cause of death, police said.

And in Ohio, four people died “due to weather-related auto accidents” and several others were injured, according to Gov. Mike DeWine.

The life-threatening cold has spread all the way to the Gulf Coast and the Mexican border, with sub-zero wind chills reported as far south as Austin and Atlanta. Many places in the eastern US are in for the coldest Christmas Eve in decades as the Arctic blast reaches its peak.

About 1.2 million U.S. customers are experiencing power outages amid winter weather and freezing temperatures, according to the website PowerOutage.US. Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania have the most outages.

In total, more than 200 million people in the US were under wind chill warnings from the Canadian border to the Mexican border and from Washington state to Florida, with sub-zero wind chills expected in the Southeast by Friday. Other winter weather warnings apply for blizzards, ice, snow and flooding.

“The National Weather Service warning graphic features one of the largest winter weather warnings and advisories,” the agency said Thursday.

Parts of Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming, in particular, have already seen wind chills below minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit over the past two days.

The entire state of Texas had below-freezing temperatures by early Friday afternoon, according to statewide weather watches.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul warned residents of the “epic statewide threat” of winter weather.

“I called it the kitchen sink storm because it’s throwing everything at us except the kitchen sink,” Hochul said at a news conference Friday afternoon. “This weekend we had ice, flooding, snow, freezing temperatures and everything Mother Nature could throw at us.”

For Brian Trzeciak, the storm “warned the truth” at his home in Hamburg, New York. Buffalo Airport, just to the north, reported zero visibility just after noon Friday.

“The whiteout conditions, cold temperatures and waves are similar to what you would see during a hurricane,” he told CNN.

He and his family decided to cancel their Christmas plans due to the threat of the storm.

“My mom lives about 30 minutes away, and so does my sister and her family, in the other direction,” he said. “We always get together for Christmas Eve and Christmas, but we’re all running around the houses until it’s all over on Monday.”

Driving bans are in effect in Erie, Genesee, Niagara and Orleans counties in western New York due to whiteout conditions.

As many as 250 people could be stuck in their cars in Erie County in a situation that Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said would put first responders at unnecessary risk. Brown told CNN Friday night that forecasts call for between 36 and 48 inches of snow. The area experienced wind gusts of 79 mph.

Many will experience a chilly holiday unlike any other: Atlanta, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Tallahassee, Fla., are forecast to have their coldest highs on record on Dec. 24, according to the National Weather Service.

Washington DC is forecast to have its second coldest Christmas Eve, behind only 1989. New York will have its coldest Christmas Eve since 1906. Chicago is expected to get above freezing, but will still see its coldest Christmas Eve since 1983.

Much of Florida will experience the peak of cold on Christmas Day. It will be the coldest Christmas Day since 1983 for Miami, Tampa, Orlando and West Palm Beach.

Cars drive in whiteout conditions in Orchard Park, New York on Friday.

On Friday, the storm produced heavier snowfall and thunderstorms, particularly in the Midwest.

As the storm travels east across the country, it is expected to become a “bomb cyclone”, a rapidly strengthening storm that drops 24 millibars of pressure in 24 hours. The storm’s pressure was forecast to match that of a Category 2 hurricane as it moved toward the Great Lakes Friday morning.

Governors in at least 13 states, including Georgia and North Carolina in the South, have implemented emergency measures to respond to the storm. The declaration of a state of emergency in several states included the activation of National Guard units.

More than 5,400 Friday flights had been canceled by 7:30 p.m. ET, after nearly 2,700 cancellations on Thursday, according to flight-tracking website FlightAware.

• It will be very cold: Friday will bring record low temperatures across large swathes of the U.S., including from the Lower Mississippi Valley northeast to the Tennessee and Ohio valleys and extending across large swaths of the East to Southeast, through the southern to central Appalachians and into the mid-Atlantic, according to the National Weather Service.

Dangerous wind chill: Falling temperatures will be accompanied by strong winds that will produce dangerous wind chill conditions across nearly all of the central to eastern United States.

Storm Warnings: The upper Midwest will see cold temperatures, heavy snow and strong winds. The warning is in effect for parts of Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota and Michigan. Buffalo, New York will be under a snowstorm warning for Friday morning. Such warnings go into effect when snow and 35 mph winds reduce visibility to less than a quarter mile for at least three hours.

White conditions: A blizzard can form even if the snowfall stops, as strong winds can pick up snow already on the ground and cause poor visibility.

A separate storm system is bringing heavy mixed precipitation to the Pacific Northwest on Friday.

A Winter Storm Warning is in effect for Western Washington, including Seattle, until 7 PM PT Friday. Additional snowfall of up to 2 inches is possible, and ice accumulations could reach a quarter of an inch. Precipitation will start as snow and change to sleet/freezing rain and then rain. More power outages are likely and travel will be very difficult.

The ice caused the closure of runways at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where nearly half of the flights in and out of the airport were canceled, according to FlightAware. In addition, all express service for Sound Transit, the regional transportation network in the Seattle metro area, was suspended Friday due to icy conditions.

A Winter Storm Warning is also in effect for Northeast Oregon, including Portland, from 4:00 PM to 10:00 PM PST. Snow and sleet accumulations of up to one inch and 0.2 to 0.4 inches of ice are likely, as well as winds gusting to 55 mph. Wind chills down to zero are possible, and frostbite on exposed skin is possible in as little as 30 minutes.

One of the biggest dangers of a big winter storm, in addition to heavy snowfall and blizzards, is a rapid drop in temperatures in a short period of time. The air will continue to cool and cool, especially during the night hours.


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