A wild winter storm continued to blanket much of the United States on Saturday, bringing blizzards, freezing rain, flooding and life-threatening cold that wreaked havoc on those traveling for the Christmas holiday.
The storm that arrived earlier in the week brought down power lines, littered highways with piles of cars in fatal crashes and resulted in massive flight cancellations.
The storm was almost unprecedented in its range, stretching from the Great Lakes near Canada to the Rio Grande along the Mexican border. About 60% of the US population faced some form of winter weather advisory or warning, and temperatures fell well below normal from the Rocky Mountains east to the Appalachians, the National Weather Service said.
Freezing rain covered much of the Pacific Northwest in an ice pack, and people in the Northeast faced the threat of coastal and inland flooding.
The frigid temperatures and gusty winds were expected to create “dangerously cold wind chills across much of the central and eastern United States this holiday weekend,” the weather service said, adding that the conditions will create “a potentially life-threatening hazard for travelers emerges. stuck.”
“In some areas, being outdoors can lead to frostbite in minutes,” he said.
Adding to the woes were power outages that were still affecting more than a million homes and businesses as of late Friday, according to the website PowerOutage, which tracks utility reports.
As millions of Americans travel ahead of Christmas, more than 5,700 flights within, into or out of the US were canceled on Friday, according to tracking site FlightAware.
Multiple highways were closed and crashes claimed at least six lives, officials said. At least two people died in a massive pileup involving about 50 vehicles on the Ohio Turnpike. A driver in Kansas City, Missouri, was killed Thursday after sliding into a creek, and three others died Wednesday in separate accidents on icy roads in northern Kansas.
In Canada, WestJet canceled all flights Friday at Toronto Pearson International Airport, as meteorologists there warned of a potentially once-in-a-decade weather event. While in Mexico, migrants camped near the US border in unusually cold temperatures while awaiting a decision from the US Supreme Court on pandemic-era restrictions that prevent many from seeking asylum.
Forecasters said a bomb cyclone – when atmospheric pressure drops very quickly in a strong storm – had developed near the Great Lakes, causing blizzard conditions, including heavy winds and snow .
Even people in Florida were braced for unusually cold weather as rare freeze warnings were issued for large parts of the state over the holiday weekend.
Activists were rushing to get homeless people out of the cold. Nearly 170 adults and children were keeping warm early Friday in Detroit at a shelter and warming center designed to hold 100 people.
“This is a lot of extra people” but it wasn’t an option to turn anyone away, said Faith Fowler, executive director of Cass Community Social Services, which runs both facilities.
Emergency weather shelters in Portland, Oregon, called for volunteers amid high demands and staffing issues as snow, freezing rain, ice and frigid temperatures fell in the area.
The South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem that she was deploying the National Guard to haul wood to the Oglala Sioux and Rosebud Sioux tribes and help with snow removal.
“We have families that are way out there that we haven’t heard from in two weeks,” said Wayne Boyd, chief of staff to the Rosebud Sioux president.
On the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Harlie Young huddled with five children and her father around a wood stove as 12-foot (3.6-meter) drifts of snow blocked the house.
“We’re trying to look on the bright side that they’re still coming and they haven’t forgotten us,” she said Friday.
Calling it a “kitchen sink storm,” Gov. New York Kathy Hochul state of emergency. In parts of New York City, tidal flooding submerged roads, homes and businesses Friday morning.
In Boston, rain combined with high tides flooded several downtown streets on Friday.
Bleed was reported from Little Rock, Arkansas. Associated Press journalists Dee-Ann Durbin in Detroit; Gillian Flaccus in Portland, Oregon; Zeke Miller in Washington, DC; and Emily Wagster Pettus in Jackson, Mississippi, with this report.