Long Winter Storm Kills At Least 37 People And Knocks Out Power For Thousands: At least 37 people lost their lives, and hundreds of thousands more woke up on Christmas morning without electricity due to the lengthy winter storm that delivered heavy snow, high winds, and bitter cold to most of the US this past week.
According to the National Weather Service, 43 inches of snow had fallen by Sunday morning in and around Buffalo, New York. Officials said that more than a dozen individuals were killed due to the heavy snowfall and blizzard conditions in Erie County. With a minor thaw on Sunday, rescue workers could assess the situation outside.
Sunday, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz remarked, “I don’t want to declare that this is going to be it because that would be a fallacy for me to say so.” This is because “we know that there are people who have been stuck in cars for more than two days.” “People are shivering in their homes.”
Buffalo had the “most destructive hurricane in its long, storied history,” as described by New York Governor Kathy Hochul. On Sunday, Hochul told CNN’s Paula Reid that “it’s a problem of epic size.” This winter storm has swept over the United States in the past week, bringing with it dangerously low temperatures, blizzard conditions, and coastal flooding that has ruined Christmas preparations for many.
Freeze warnings are in effect across the South on Sunday morning, while wind chill advisories affected more than 55 million people. Sunday saw the blizzard continue throughout the Great Lakes, while the eastern two-thirds of the United States was hit with subzero temperatures.
This Christmas was the coldest in decades for certain major cities in the Southeast, Midwest, and East Coast. Florida cities, including Miami, Tampa, Orlando, and West Palm Beach, will see their coldest December 25ths since 1983.
Christmas Eve in New York City was frigid, setting records at multiple locations, including JFK and LaGuardia airports. The National Weather Service reported that the peak temperature in Central Park was only 15, making it the second coldest December 24 in at least 150 years. It’s looking like we’ll get some much-needed relief from the cold later this week when temperatures are predicted to rise to above-average levels.
As of 11 a.m. ET on Sunday, roughly 250,000 residences and businesses across the United States were without power, with nearly half of those affected in Maine and New York. At its peak, the number of consumers without power since the storm’s beginning was over a million.
Intense Cold Tests The Power Grid
At least 13 states in the eastern portion of the United States were urged by their power grid operator to reduce their energy consumption and lower their thermostat settings from early Saturday until 10 a.m. on Sunday due to high demand.
About 65 million people in Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia are served by the operator, PJM Interconnection. The operator warned that if stress levels rise too high, rolling blackouts may occur.
Con Edison and Natural Grid US, two New York City utilities, have also encouraged their customers to reduce their energy consumption due to the impact of the recent inclement weather on interstate pipelines delivering natural gas to the city. Meanwhile, the US Department of Energy declared an emergency on Friday due to Texas’s power shortfall, temporarily allowing the state’s energy supplier to exceed environmental emissions guidelines.
Frozen conditions are making it difficult to fix a massive water main break in Jackson, Mississippi, which city officials say has resulted in a drop in water pressure for homes. The breach occurred late on Saturday. Despite the cold, we appreciate the workers out there on Christmas Eve night trying to fix the pressure problem for locals. Not only does our administration recognize and value their efforts, but so do all affected locals,” the announcement read.
Bad weather has also slowed holiday travel, with almost 5,000 flights canceled on Friday, 3,400 on Saturday, and 2,800 on Christmas Day alone.
People Die Because Of Severe Weather
The Niagara County Sheriff’s Office reported one death from carbon monoxide poisoning out of seventeen deaths attributed to the weather in New York. All seventeen deaths occurred in Erie County.
Poloncarz, the county executive, said that despite a driving ban enacted by the county during the storm, some 500 motorists were stranded in their vehicles Friday night and Saturday morning due to the blistering blizzard conditions that ravaged the region.
“Rescue those stuck in automobiles,” he continued, referring to the stranded motorists and passengers whom the National Guard had been called in to help free. Poloncarz noted that “some were found in cars and some were found actually on the street in snow banks” of the early Sunday deaths reported, ranging in age from 26 to 93.
Poloncarz reported on Saturday am that two people had passed away in separate events on Friday night because emergency medical services could not reach their homes in time. A representative for the county confirmed the third fatality on Saturday afternoon, although details were unavailable at the time.
“The loss of two lives in Buffalo, storm-related, because they were not able to go to medical assistance, is again a crisis that unfolds before your eyes,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul said on Saturday. After bringing in mutual aid from other state regions and working overtime, Hochul said she would petition the federal government “for a declaration of emergency that’ll allow us to seek reparations for the excessive expenses.”
Other storm-related deaths have been reported in the country. They include:
• Colorado: Police in Colorado Springs, Colorado, reported two deaths related to the cold since Thursday, with one man found near a power transformer of a building, possibly looking for warmth, and another in a camp in an alleyway.
• Kansas: Three people have died in weather-related traffic accidents, the Kansas Highway Patrol said Friday.
• Kentucky: Officials have said three people have died in the state, including one involving a vehicle crash 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: Nine people had died due to weather-related auto 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, authorities said.
• Tennessee: On Friday, the Tennessee Department of Health confirmed one storm-related fatality.
• Wisconsin: Wisconsin State Patrol on Thursday reported one fatal crash due to winter weather.
What To Anticipate When The Storm Weakens And Dangerous Weather Persists
On Sunday, lake-effect snow and blizzard conditions are expected throughout a large swath of the Great Lakes due to strong winds after the arctic cold front that moved through the region this week.
Almost the entire Upper Midwest, Great Lakes region and Ohio Valley is under a blizzard warning, winter storm warning, or winter weather advisory. Lake-effect snow could bring an extra 8–16 inches to the ground.
The storm system is expected to diminish as it moves slowly over the next few days and pulls frigid air from Canada down into much of the eastern United States. It has already lifted into southeastern Canada. On Monday, the Arctic blast will begin to lessen gradually.
The National Weather Service predicts that stranded travelers, outdoor workers, livestock, and pets would be at risk of the dangerously low temperatures and high winds. The Weather Service warned that “in some regions, being outdoors might lead to frostbite in minutes.”
Lake-effect snows and blizzard conditions are predicted to persist, albeit gradually diminish, as cold air continues to blast the warm waters of the Great Lakes. Still, the snow downwind from the Great Lakes and the high-gusting winds initially reaching 60 mph will continue to create extremely hazardous driving conditions.
The subsequent influx of moisture will hit the Pacific Northwest and northern California on Christmas night and Monday due to a low-pressure system that will be moving in from the Pacific.
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