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

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A cold winter storm swept across the country, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses and leaving millions on the brink of possible blackouts over the Christmas holiday weekend.

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

CBS News has confirmed at least 20 weather-related deaths from the storm nationwide. At least three people have 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 in historic blizzard conditions. .

As millions of Americans traveled ahead of Christmas, more than 3,400 flights within, to or from the United States were canceled on Saturday, with another 1,300 as of 7 a.m. ET Sunday, according to the tracking site . FlightAware. Airlines were catching up with crew shortages and de-icing slowing the 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 shores of Lake Erie on Dec. 21. February 24, 2022 in Hamburg, New York during a powerful winter storm.

John Normile/Getty Images

As of Saturday night, at least 345,000 customers were without power nationwide, according to outage tracking site PowerOutage.us. Of these, more than 170,000 were in the New England region.

Deep snow, single-digit temperatures and one-day power outages had Buffalo residents rushing out of their homes to any heated location on Saturday. 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 snow.

“No matter how many emergency vehicles we have, they can’t get through the conditions as we speak,” Hochul said.

Forecasters said 28 inches of snow had already accumulated Saturday in Buffalo – part of an area that saw 6 feet fall. a little over a month ago, killing three people. More is expected overnight.

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

Ice covers the Hoak Restaurant along the Lake Erie shoreline on December 24, 2022 in Hamburg, New York.
Ice covers the Hoak Restaurant along the Lake Erie shoreline on December 24, 2022 in Hamburg, New York.

John Normile/Getty Images

Blinding blizzards, freezing rain and freezing cold also knocked out power in places from Maine to Seattle, while a major electric grid operator warned the 65 million people it serves in the eastern United States that power outages may be necessary.

Pennsylvania-based PJM Interconnection said power plants were struggling to operate in freezing weather and asked residents in 13 states to conserve power until at least Christmas morning. The Tennessee Valley Authority, which provides power to 10 million people in the state and parts of six others, ordered local power companies to implement planned outages, but the measure ended Saturday afternoon. The start of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans game in Nashville was delayed an hour by a planned power outage.

PJM Interconnection, which covers all or parts of 13 states and Washington, DC, also warned that continued outages may be required.

A powerful storm covers much of the United States


In North Carolina, 169,000 customers were without power Saturday afternoon, down from a peak of more than 485,000, but utility officials said power outages would continue for “the next few days.”

Among those without power were James Reynolds of Greensboro, who said his roommate, a 70-year-old man with diabetes and severe arthritis, had spent the morning next to a kerosene heater with temperatures inside “hovering. in the 50s”.

In Jackson, Mississippi, officials said on Saturday the city’s water system – which partially collapsed late August – was under “fluctuating” pressure on Saturday afternoon amid freezing temperatures.

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

Ticket prices at Soldier Field in Chicago on Saturday fell faster than the temperature, with some seats costing $10 at third-party venues to see the Bears take charge the Buffalo Bills. The temperature at the start was 9 degrees, with a minus-12 Wind Chill. It was Buffalo’s coldest road game by temperature since at least 1967.

In Montana, it was minus 40 degrees or worse for much of the week as ranchers tried to keep their cattle safe.

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

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

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

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

Kentucky Gov. 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 crashes for 34 hours. The truckers withstood the wait in a rig equipped with a diesel heater, lavatory and refrigerator, but still regretted attempting to drive from Alabama to their home near Akron , Ohio, for Christmas.

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

The storm was nearly unprecedented in its magnitude, stretching from the Great Lakes near Canada to the Rio Grande along the border with Mexico. About 60% of the U.S. population faced some sort of winter weather advisory or warning, and temperatures dropped significantly below normal from east of the Rocky Mountains to Appalachia, the National Weather Service said. .

In Mexico, migrants camped near the US border in unusually cold temperatures as they awaited a US Supreme Court ruling on pandemic-era restrictions that are preventing many from seeking asylum . Dozens of migrants also lived and slept on the streets of the Texas border town of El Paso in sub-zero temperatures while waiting for shelters to open. Most were winter clothes donated by local residents and caring volunteers,

Forecasters said a bomb cyclone – when atmospheric pressure drops very quickly during a strong storm – had developed near the Great Lakes, causing blizzard conditions including high winds and snow.

Western New York often sees spectacular lake effect snow, which is caused by cool air picking up moisture from warm water and then dumping it onto the ground. But even locals found the conditions dire on Christmas Eve.

Latricia Stroud said she and her two daughters, 1 and 12, have been stuck without heat or power in their Buffalo home since Friday afternoon, with the snow too deep to leave.

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

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