A nearly week-long winter storm that ripped through much of the US dropped temperatures to life-threatening lows, brought thunderstorms and flooding and left more than a quarter million people without power on Christmas Day.
Stormy conditions continue across the Great Lakes as frigid temperatures grip the eastern two-thirds of the US, with several major cities in the Southeast, Midwest and East Coast recording their coldest Christmas in decades.
Large areas of the central and eastern US remain under wind chill warnings and advisories, as freeze warnings are in effect across the South.
New York City saw record cold temperatures on Christmas Eve in several locations, including JFK and LaGuardia airports. The high in Central Park was 15 degrees, marking the second coldest December 24 in at least 150 years, according to National Weather Service.
At least 22 deaths have been attributed to the dangerous weather since Wednesday, and some residents in the Northeast are spending the holiday without adequate heating or hot water as bitterly cold temperatures persist.
Across the U.S., 275,856 U.S. homes and businesses were without power as of 1 a.m. ET, many of them in Maine and New York, according to PowerOutage.us. Since the start of the storm, the number of outages has exceeded one million customers at times.
A power grid operator for at least 13 states in the eastern half of the country asked customers to conserve energy and set thermostats lower than usual from early Saturday until 10 a.m. Sunday because usage was straining capacity.
The operator, PJM Interconnection, serves approximately 65 million people in all or parts of Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. , and warned that continuous outages could occur if the strain becomes too much.
In New York, utilities Con Edison and Natural Grid US also urged customers to conserve energy, citing extreme weather conditions and increased demand for power on interstate pipelines that carry natural gas into the city.
Meanwhile, a power outage in Texas prompted the US Department of Energy to declare a state of emergency on Friday, allowing the state’s power provider to exceed environmental emissions standards until power use falls.
In Jackson, Mississippi, cold temperatures are hampering efforts to repair a major water break late Saturday that caused a loss of water pressure for residents, city officials said.
“We are grateful to the crews who are braving these cold temperatures on this Christmas Eve as they work to restore pressure on residents. Their sacrifice does not go unnoticed and is appreciated not only by this administration, but also by every affected resident,” the announcement states.
Brutal weather conditions have also hampered travel over the busy holiday weekend, with more than 5,000 flights canceled on Friday, more than 3,400 flights canceled on Saturday and more than 1,000 canceled for Christmas Day.
Road conditions were no better in some parts of the country amid whiteout conditions and icy and snowy roads.
In New York’s Erie County — which is seeing blizzard conditions — about 500 drivers were stranded in their vehicles Friday night into Saturday morning, despite a countywide driving ban in place during the storm. according to County Executive Mark Poloncarz.
National Guard troops were called in to help “rescue people stuck in vehicles” and give rides to medical workers so they could relieve colleagues who had been working at hospitals for more than a day, Poloncarz said.
In Seattle, Washington, online videos have documented cars sliding on icy streets and crashing into each, and residents slipping while walking on sidewalks, CNN affiliate KOMO reported.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said she will ask the federal government for an emergency declaration after the winter storm.
“I will be asking the federal government for an emergency declaration that will allow us to seek reimbursement for the extraordinary overtime expenses and the fact that we brought in mutual aid from other parts of the state,” Hochul told reporters. on Saturday. “We’ve deployed individuals — utility crews have come, but also making sure we have all the vehicles we need.”
The three storm-related deaths in New York were reported in Erie County. Two died in separate incidents Friday night when emergency medical personnel could not get to their homes in time for medical emergencies, Poloncarz said Saturday morning. Details about the third death, confirmed by a county spokesman Saturday afternoon, were not immediately available.
“The loss of two lives in Buffalo — storm-related — because people were unable to get medical care is again a crisis situation unfolding before your eyes, and you realize that the ambulances and emergency medical personnel cannot reach people during a storm. situation”, added Hochul.
Other storm-related deaths have been reported locally. They include:
• Colorado: Police in Colorado Springs, Colorado, reported two cold-related deaths since Thursday, with a man found near a building’s power transformer possibly seeking warmth and another in a camp in an alley.
• Kansas: Three people have died in weather-related traffic accidents, the Kansas Highway Patrol said Friday.
• Kentucky: Three people have died in the state, officials said, including one involving a car accident in Montgomery County.
Missouri: One person died after a caravan slid off an icy road and into a frozen creek, Kansas City police said.
• Ohio: Eight people have died in weather-related car crashes, including four in a Saturday morning crash on Interstate 75 when a semi tractor-trailer crossed the median and collided with an SUV and a pickup truck, authorities said.
• Tennessee: The Tennessee Department of Health confirmed one death related to the storm on Friday.
• Wisconsin: The Wisconsin State Patrol on Thursday reported a fatal accident due to winter weather.
In the photo: The winter storm affects the USA
The storm system is expected to gradually weaken as it moves across southeastern Canada, moving slowly over the next two days and pulling arctic air from Canada into much of the eastern side of the country.
The Arctic blast felt in the eastern two-thirds of the country will slowly ease by Monday, but dangerous conditions will continue into Christmas Day.
Cold temperatures combined with dangerous wind chills will create a potentially life-threatening hazard for stranded travelers, people working outdoors, livestock and pets, according to the National Weather Service.
“In some areas, being outside can lead to freezing within minutes,” the Weather Service warned.
As cold air continues to blow over the warm waters of the Great Lakes, lake effect snow and storms are expected to continue, but will slowly become less intense.
However, initially gusty winds of up to 60 mph accompanying snow downwind of the Great Lakes will continue to create extremely hazardous road conditions.
By Christmas Eve into Monday, another low pressure system coming in from the Pacific will deliver the next surge of moisture to the Pacific Northwest and then northern California, according to the Weather Service.