Winter storm causes power outages, hits Americans with snow and freezing temperatures ahead of Christmas

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a frigid winter storm swept the country, leveling hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses and leaving millions of people worried about the possibility of blackouts over the Christmas holiday weekend.

The storm unleashed its full fury on Buffalo, New York, with hurricane-force winds causing bleaching conditions. Emergency response efforts were stalled and the city’s international airport was closed.

CBS News confirmed at least 20 weather-related deaths from the storm nationwide. At least three people died in the Buffalo area, including two who suffered medical emergencies in their homes and could not be saved because emergency crews were unable to reach them amid historic blizzard conditions.

As millions of Americans traveled before Christmas, more than 3,400 flights into, in or out of the US were canceled on Saturday and another 1,300 as of 7am ET on Sunday, according to tracking website FlightAware. Airlines were trying to catch up with crew shortages and the thaw delaying a return to normal, CBS News correspondent Naomi Ruchim reported. In Seattle, an ice storm closed several runways.
A bobcat makes its way to help dig up abandoned vehicles along the shore of Lake Erie on December 24, 2022 in Hamburg, New York during a severe winter storm.

John Normile/Getty Images

As of Saturday night, at least 345,000 customers were without power across the country, according to the outage tracking website. Of those, over 170,000 were in the New England region.

Deep snow, single-digit temperatures and day-long power outages had Buffalo residents scrambling Saturday to get out of their homes to anywhere that felt warm. New York Governor Kathy Hochul said Buffalo Niagara International Airport would be closed until Monday morning and nearly all of the city’s fire trucks were stuck in the snow.

“No matter how many emergency vehicles we have, they cannot go through the conditions as we speak,” Hochul said.

Forecasters said 28 inches of snow had already piled up on Saturday in Buffalo – part of an area that saw 6-foot fall. just over a month ago, resulting in three deaths. More is expected overnight.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said the blizzard could be “the worst storm in the history of our community.” He said ambulances took more than three hours to make a trip to a hospital. Plows were on the roads, but heavy snowdrifts, abandoned cars, and downed power lines were slowing progress.

Ice covers Hoak's restaurant along the shore of Lake Erie on December 24, 2022, in Hamburg, New York.
Ice covers Hoak’s restaurant along the shore of Lake Erie on December 24, 2022, in Hamburg, New York.

John Normile/Getty Images

Blinding blizzards, freezing rain and freezing cold also cut power in places from Maine to Seattle, while a major utility operator has warned the 65 million people it serves across the eastern US that ongoing blackouts may be needed.

Pennsylvania-based PJM Interconnection said power plants were having a hard time operating in the cold weather and urged residents in 13 states to conserve electricity at least until Christmas morning. The Tennessee Valley Authority, which supplies electricity to 10 million people in the state and parts of its six neighbors, instructed local power companies to implement planned outages, but ended the measure on Saturday afternoon. The start of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans game in Nashville was delayed an hour due to a planned power outage.

PJM Interconnection, which covers all or parts of 13 states and Washington, DC, also warned that ongoing blackouts may be necessary.

Strong storm covers much of the US


In North Carolina, 169,000 customers lost power Saturday afternoon, down from a peak of more than 485,000, but utility officials said the blackouts would continue “for the next few days.”

Among those without power, James Reynolds of Greensboro said his housemate, a man in his 70s with diabetes and severe arthritis, spent the morning strapped next to a kerosene heater with internal temperatures “hovering in the 50 degrees”.

In Jackson, Mississippi, officers saturday said city’s water system – which partially collapsed in late August – was experiencing “floating” pressure Saturday afternoon amid frigid temperatures.

Some residents of Mississippi’s capital may experience temporarily low water pressure, officials have warned. Ahead of the “arctic blast” that brought dangerously cold air to Jackson, Chokwe Mayor Antar Lumumba warned that the city’s water distribution system remained a “huge vulnerability”.

Ticket prices at Soldier Field in Chicago on Saturday plummeted faster than the temperature, with some seats going for $10 on third-party sites to see the Bears. to assume the Buffalo Bills. The initial temperature was 9 degrees, with -12 cold wind🇧🇷 It was Buffalo’s coldest road game by temperature since at least 1967.

In Montana, it’s been minus 40 degrees or worse for most of the week, with ranchers trying to keep their livestock safe.

On the Ohio Turnpike, four died in a major pileup on Friday involving about 50 vehicles. A Kansas City, Missouri, driver was killed Thursday after skidding into a creek, and three others were killed Wednesday in separate accidents on icy roads in northern Kansas.

A utility worker in Ohio was also killed Friday while trying to restore power, one company said. The Buckeye Rural Electric Cooperative said the 22-year-old died in “an electrical contact incident” near Pedro, in Lawrence County.

A woman in Vermont died in a hospital on Friday after a tree snapped in high winds and fell on her. Colorado Springs police said they found the body of a person who appeared to be homeless as subzero temperatures and snow pounded the area. In Madison, Wisconsin, a 57-year-old woman died on Friday after falling through ice in a river, the Rock County Sheriff’s Office announced.

In Lansing, Michigan, an 82-year-old woman died after she was found Friday morning curled up in snow outside her assisted living community, Bath Township Police said. A snowplow driver found the woman when temperatures hovered around 10 degrees.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said one person died in a traffic accident attributed to weather in western Kentucky and a homeless person died in Louisville.

Along Interstate 71 in Kentucky, Terry Henderson and her husband, Rick, were stuck in a massive traffic jam caused by multiple accidents for 34 hours. The truckers braved the wait on a platform equipped with a diesel heater, a toilet and a refrigerator, but they still regretted trying to drive from Alabama to their home near Akron, Ohio, on Christmas.

“I wish we had stayed,” Terry Henderson said after they got back on their feet on Saturday. “We should have sat down.”

The storm was almost unprecedented in its scope, stretching from the Great Lakes near Canada to the Rio Grande along the border with Mexico. About 60% of the US population faced some type of winter weather warning or alert, and temperatures dropped sharply below normal east of the Rocky Mountains into the Appalachians, the National Weather Service said.

In Mexico, migrants camped near the U.S. border in unusually low temperatures as they awaited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on pandemic-era restrictions that prevent many from seeking asylum. dozens of migrants were also living and sleeping on the streets of the city of El Paso, on the border with Texas, in sub-zero temperatures, waiting for shelters to open. Most wore donated winter clothing they had received from empathetic local residents and volunteers,

Meteorologists said that a cyclone bomb — when atmospheric pressure drops very quickly in a severe storm — has developed near the Great Lakes, causing blizzard conditions, including high winds and snow.

Western New York often sees dramatic lake-effect snow, caused by cold air absorbing moisture from warm water and dumping it onto land. But even area residents found the conditions on Christmas Eve appalling.

Latricia Stroud said she and her two daughters, ages 1 and 12, had been trapped without heat or power in their Buffalo home since Friday afternoon, with the snow too deep to get out.

“I have to go through a snow bank to get out,” Stroud told the AP. “There’s a warm-up center, I just need a ride to get there.”