Last week, a prolonged winter storm that brought heavy snow, high winds and brutal cold across much of the United States killed at least 26 people and cut power to hundreds of thousands.
Perhaps the worst impact was around Buffalo, New York, where 43 inches of snow fell as of Sunday morning, according to the National Weather Service. Snowfall and blizzards made roads impassable and substations froze, killing at least seven people, Erie County officials said.
The situation eased slightly on Sunday, allowing emergency responders to go outside and see the extent of the problem.
“I don’t want to say it’s over because I know people who have been stuck in their cars for more than two days, so it would be a mistake to say that,” an Erie County administrator said. Mark Polonkers said on Sunday. “There are people in the house with subzero temperatures.”
New York Governor Kathy Hochul called it “the most devastating storm in Buffalo’s long history” because of its strength and length.
“It’s a crisis of epic proportions,” Hochol told CNN’s Paula Reid on Sunday.
Over the past week, this winter storm has brought dangerously cold temperatures, snowstorms and coastal flooding to much of the United States, ruining Christmas plans along the way.
Cold weather warnings were in effect for more than 55 million people on Sunday morning, with freeze warnings in effect for the south.
Blizzard conditions continued across the Great Lakes on Sunday, with frigid cold temperatures covering the eastern two-thirds of the country.
Several major cities in the Southeast, Midwest and East Coast experienced their coldest Christmases in decades. Florida will see the coldest December 25th since 1983 in Miami, Tampa, Orlando and West Palm Beach. New York City also saw record cold snaps on Christmas Eve in several locations, including JFK and LaGuardia airports. The highest temperature in Central Park was 15 degrees Celsius, and the lowest temperature on December 24th was the second coldest in at least 150 years. National Weather Service.
Temperatures are expected to pick up later in the week, welcoming a warmer-than-normal trend.
About 250,000 homes and businesses in the United States were without power as of about 11 a.m. ET, according to PowerOutage.us, with nearly half of those affected in Maine and New York. Since the storm began, the number of outages has exceeded one million customers at times.
In Pictures: Winter Storms Affect US
Grid operators in at least 13 states in the eastern half of the country asked customers to conserve power and set their thermostats lower than normal from early Saturday morning to 10 a.m. Sunday.
The operator, PJM Interconnection, operates in the states of Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Columbia Specialty. Serving approximately 65 million people in all or part of the ward. Operators warned that rolling blackouts could occur if the strain became too great.
In New York, utility companies Con Edison and Natural Grid US also urged customers to conserve energy, citing extreme weather conditions and increased energy demand for interstate pipelines that carry natural gas to the city.
Meanwhile, a power shortage in Texas prompted the U.S. Department of Energy to declare a state of emergency on Friday, allowing the state’s energy suppliers to exceed environmental emission standards until energy usage drops.
In Jackson, Mississippi, frigid temperatures hampered efforts to repair a major water main break late Saturday, causing low water pressure for residents, city officials said.
“I am grateful to the crews who braved this frigid temperature this Christmas Eve night and are working to restore pressure on the population. It is also highly appreciated by all affected residents,” the release said.
The brutal weather conditions disrupted travel even on busy holiday weekends, with more than 5,000 flights canceled on Friday, 3,400 on Saturday and 1,350 on Christmas.
Erie County, New York, reported seven storm-related deaths. In blizzard conditions, about 500 motorists were stranded in their vehicles Friday night through Saturday morning despite the county’s driving ban, according to county administrator Poloncarz. I realized that I was doing during the storm.
The National Guard had been called in to help “rescue people trapped in cars,” he said.
Poloncarz announced the deaths of four of them at a press conference Sunday morning.
“Some were found in cars, and some were actually found on the road in a snowman,” Polonkaerts said.
Two people died in separate incidents on Friday night after paramedics failed to get home in time for a medical emergency, Poloncarz said Saturday morning. Details about the third death confirmed by a county spokesperson were not immediately available.
“The loss of two lives in Buffalo in connection with the storm was another crisis unfolding as people were unable to get medical care, and emergency ambulances and emergency services were unavailable during the blizzard. We realize that paramedics can’t get close to people because of the situation,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul said Saturday.
Ho-chul said the federal government “will be able to declare a state of emergency and seek reimbursement for all overtime and the extra cost of the fact that they brought in mutual aid from other parts of the state.” He said he would request
Powerful winter storm leaves first responders in need of rescue, officials say
Other storm-related deaths have been reported nationally. They include:
• Colorado: Police in Colorado Springs, Colorado, have reported two cold-related deaths since Thursday. One was found near the building’s power transformer seeking heat, and another of hers was found in an alleyway camp.
• Kansas: Three people died in weather-related traffic accidents, the Kansas State Highway Patrol said Friday.
• Kentucky: Three people have died in the state, officials said, one of them related to a car accident in Montgomery County.
• Missouri: Kansas City Police said one person died when a caravan slid off an icy road and fell into an icy creek.
• Ohio: Eight people were killed in a weather-related car crash Saturday morning, including four when a semi-tractor trailer crossed the median and collided with an SUV and a pickup on Interstate 75 Saturday morning. officials said.
• Tennessee: On Friday, the Tennessee Department of Health confirmed one death related to the storm.
• Wisconsin: The Wisconsin State Patrol reported one fatality due to winter weather on Thursday.
Strong winds behind the Arctic cold front that passed this week could bring lake-like snow and blizzards to parts of the Great Lakes on Sunday.
Blizzard warnings, winter storm warnings, and winter weather advisories cover much of the Upper Midwest, Great Lakes region, and Ohio Valley.
An additional 8 to 16 inches of lake-like snow can accumulate.
The storm system is expected to weaken gradually as it rises over southeastern Canada and move slowly over the next few days, drawing Arctic air from Canada into much of eastern Canada.
The Arctic explosion will slowly ease on Monday.
The combination of cold weather and dangerous wind chill poses a potentially life-threatening hazard to stranded travelers, people working outdoors, livestock and pets, according to the National Weather Service.
“In some areas, being outdoors can cause frostbite within minutes,” warns the Japan Meteorological Agency.
Lake-influenced snow and blizzard conditions are expected to continue, but gradually weaken, as frigid air continues to sweep warmer waters from the Great Lakes.
Still, strong gusts of up to 60 miles per hour, initially with snow downwind from the Great Lakes, will continue to create very dangerous conditions on the roads.
Another low pressure system coming from the Pacific will head over the Pacific Northwest and then northern California from Christmas night through Monday, according to the Weather Service, bringing the next surge of moisture.