As blizzards swept across the Great Lakes region and western New York, arctic storms sent temperatures plummeting, some at record speeds. Even winter-hardened cities like Chicago and Detroit have closed vacation spots and urged people to stay indoors.the air is cold steam rose From the waters of the Ohio River and Lake Michigan.
The storm, described by the National Weather Service as a “once in a generation,” began Thursday and is expected to last through Christmas weekend, eventually carving a 2,000-mile path across much of the country. By Friday night, the blitz of elements had escalated into a “bomb cyclone,” which forms when cold, dry air from the north slams into warm, moist air from the tropics. The danger zone stretches from Canada to Mexico and from Washington state to Florida.
Powerful storms know no borders: In Canada and the United States, white clouds and high winds have canceled flights, closed major highways and left hundreds of thousands without power. In southwestern Ontario, a 100-vehicle crash blocked part of the 401 Freeway, a major arterial road.
Nearly half of the 48 contiguous US states were hit by strong winds, and 12 governors declared states of emergency. Power outages caused by gusts knocked out power across the East Coast and Texas, with Virginia and North Carolina hardest hit.
“I call it the kitchen sink storm because it’s throwing everything at us except the kitchen sink,” the New York governor said. Kathy Hochul (Democrat) said at a news conference Friday. “We’ve had ice, floods, snow, freezing temperatures and everything Mother Nature can throw at us this weekend.”
Travelers across the country who disregarded advice to stay home have been forced to slog through a logistical nightmare. U.S. airlines canceled or delayed thousands of flights on Friday, adding to earlier disruptions ahead of the busiest time of the year for family gatherings. Train and bus systems are closed. Road closures stretched for hundreds of miles. Freeway traffic came to a standstill.
Authorities counted at least nine people killed on roads as the storm swept across the country — the Kansas Highway Patrol and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol each reported three deaths in storm-related crashes; Kentucky reported two traffic deaths; one reported in Ohio.
Chey Eisenman, who runs a car service in Minneapolis, said drivers were struggling on slippery roads.
“They barely pulled the car out of the ditch, and there were more cars in the ditch,” she said. “I think people are just exhausted from trying to get their loved ones to the airport, and maybe some inexperienced Uber drivers.”
More than 200 million Americans were alerted of potentially hazardous weather in their area, amounting to “one of the largest range of winter weather warnings and advisories ever recorded,” the National Weather Service said. Atlanta, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Tallahassee are all expected to set their respective coldest Christmas Eve records.
Ignoring its strong-for-everything motto, the USPS said the storm had forced dozens of post offices to close, and Amazon and FedEx also warned package delays would interrupt the frenzied pre-Christmas rush.
Across the frozen landscape, public libraries and police stations opened their doors to those seeking warmth, and charities focused on helping the vulnerable sprang up. Lisa Freeman, executive director of Compass House, a homeless shelter in Buffalo, said outreach teams must act quickly to avoid suffering or death.As the storm rolled in, volunteers scoured areas where people were known to sleep in tents or piles of blankets
“You walk and try to find people,” Freeman said. “Then you get back in your car to warm up. It’s crazy and cold and you just have to work hard to keep it under control.”
noon, the authorities A travel ban has been imposed in the area. “Here’s why,” a Buffalo weather reporter tweets, embedding a video of dizzying bleaching conditions on the road. Winds peaked at 71 mph. Visibility remained less than a quarter mile Friday, dropping to zero at times.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown issued an afternoon update from his dimly lit home after he and thousands of other residents lost power as the storm dumped up to four feet of snow expected to settle in the lakeside city. National Grid, the city’s electricity provider, estimated as many as 20,000 customers were without power as of 5pm when the temperature was 7 degrees.
Even the city’s two heating centers were without power, the utility provider said, but the situation was too dangerous for its crews to restore power.
“If you have a power outage at home, the safest thing to do right now is probably to shelter in your home rather than go out and seek shelter,” Brown said. The city imposed a driving ban on Friday due to “power outages” across the region, but the mayor said , stranded drivers ignoring the ban are “jamming the 911 system” and their calls are not considered “high priority calls” at all times. “
“I didn’t expect it to be this bad,” said Jaeger Martino, a 23-year-old college student from Niagara Falls, who said he left his home to try to move his car to keep it from getting stuck in the snow. “But when I got in the car, the windshield was icy and completely white and you couldn’t see anything.”
In Colorado, snow-covered roads. Airlines canceled 647 flights from Denver International Airport in 24 hours. The stadium that hosts the National Western Stock Show each January becomes a heating center for hundreds of homeless people.
In Michigan, Friday was too windy for anyone to fix a power outage affecting thousands, but hundreds of on-site crews were ready to fix it over Christmas, utility officials said. The number of outages reported by DTE Energy in Greater Detroit nearly tripled overnight to 8,000.
For kids distraught over missing the Detroit Zoo’s annual light show — another casualty of extreme weather — one source of cheer is still in play: live cameras training sea otters and penguins. (The waterfowl continues to waddle around as usual.)
at St. Cold weather in Paul, Minnesota didn’t take all the holiday cheer away. Spectators traveled through sub-zero cold to watch the Trans-Siberian Symphony, a musical group with a huge fan base in the Twin Cities.
Inside the Xcel Energy Center, Ellise Lamb says she won’t let black ice keep her from attending the show. However, on her way in, she finds auto parts on Interstate 494.
“You can see where they slide,” she said. “The parts just go on and on.” She added that her survival mantra is: “You just take your time. We know how to do it.”
In Philadelphia, another city accustomed to punishing weather, Laamia Hussain, a 25-year-old analyst, was walking home with groceries on Friday when she realized her building was out. That meant she had to hoist the bag up six flights of steps.
“I didn’t expect a workout like this,” she said. She wants to stock up on some essentials before the winter weather gets too scary.
Now she’s not sure when power will be restored. From her window, she saw the streets covered with snow. “And the wind,” she said. “My windows were creaking all the time.”
Fortunately, thanks to a friend’s warning, she charged the device before the power went out. As for herself, Hussain said she had been wearing a coat and burying herself in a blanket. If the lights don’t return to normal soon, she plans to move to a friend’s house who still has electricity.
Matt Brown, a 31-year-old Spanish teacher in Manhattan, said he hoped to be in Chicago on Christmas Eve. But his flight on Saturday was uncertain.
“But it looks like… yeah. I don’t know,” he said with a sigh. “I’m glad I bought insurance for it.”
The goal is to eat his mother’s dinner at Christmas with a Hallmark movie on the TV. Still, if he had to stay in New York, maybe he’d pack himself up and go out to dinner. At least his school was able to throw a classroom holiday party for the kids — including a karaoke rendition of “Feliz Navidad.”
“It’s like 50 degrees right now,” he said at the celebration.
“But it will be reduced to 13 later,” chimed in one of his students.
“I have to be mentally prepared,” he replied.
On Long Island, storm-generated flooding ravaged communities on the South Shore.Video shows a school bus wading through Brownwater, part of the Long Island Rail Road is temporarily closed. Flooding was also reported in communities on the Jersey Shore and the Connecticut Shore.
The extent of the storm means that even states far from the Northeast are in the target area. Tennessee Power briefly ordered rolling blackouts in response to what it called “unprecedented” demand before calling off the move and pleading with customers to save as much energy as possible. Nashville asked residents to let sunlight in through the curtains and “wear a cozy sweater, warm socks or blanket.”
In Des Moines, the sub-zero cold is too cold for skating. The skating rink in the city center was forced to close.
“It’s dangerous if people are outside for more than 10 or 15 minutes,” said Parks and Recreation Director Ben Page.
The city’s golf courses, usually a winter haven for snowshoeers, were noticeably empty.
“I didn’t see a soul,” he said.
Becca Schell, a 30-year-old biotech worker in Denver, thought the ordeal of travel was over when she arrived in Baltimore. She and her fiancé were due to arrive in Maryland early Thursday afternoon, but their flight was delayed by seven hours.
On Friday, however, after arriving at the fiancé’s parents’ house, a new problem arose: the power was out. The temperature in the house dropped to 55 degrees. “We decided it was time to leave,” she said. They went to her fiance’s sister’s house nearby.
“We went outside and within a minute or two were uncomfortable,” she said. “If you have any skin exposed, the wind can sting you.”
At sunset, she lay relieved under her blanket, finally ready to enjoy her vacation. Shell just hoped the lights would stay on.
Felton reported from New York.Amanda Coletta in Toronto, Sheila Regan in Minneapolis, Nikie Johnson in Ankeny, Iowa, Jennifer Oldham in Denver and Scott Dance in Washington contributed to this report