Dec 24 (Reuters) – An arctic storm ripped through much of the United States on Saturday, causing power outages, canceled flights and crashing cars, as plunging temperatures are expected to hit several cities from Pennsylvania to Georgia. Come the coldest Christmas Eve ever recorded.
The National Weather Service (NWS) said temperatures in Pittsburgh are expected to reach 7 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 13 degrees Celsius) on Saturday, surpassing the 13-degree coldest Christmas Eve high on record set in 1983.
Cities in Georgia and South Carolina — Athens and Charleston — are also expected to record their coldest Christmas Eve daytime highs, while Washington, D.C., is forecast to experience its coldest December yet. 24 Since 1989.
A string of Christmas temperature records are expected as dangerously cold winds fueling a deep freeze in the United States continue to blanket much of the eastern two-thirds of the country over the holiday weekend, forecasts said.
The freeze has caused deadly car crashes across the country, with CNN reporting at least 14 deaths in weather-related accidents.
A combination of arctic cold and snow and howling wind “hurricane bombs” roared from the Great Lakes region into the upper Mississippi River and Ohio Valley on Friday, wreaking havoc on power systems, roads and commercial air traffic.
Extreme winter weather killed at least five people on Friday.
Two motorists were killed and many were injured in a 50-vehicle collision on the Ohio Turnpike during a snowstorm near Toledo, officials said The car was freezing. .
Neighboring Kentucky confirmed three more weather-related deaths — two in car crashes and one in a homeless person who died from exposure.
Freezing rain and freezing from another storm in the Pacific Northwest also made travel there dangerous on Friday.
border to border
From Canada to the Mexican border and coast to coast, some 240 million people were under winter weather warnings and some form of warning on Friday, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.
The NWS said its maps of existing or impending weather hazards “depict one of the widest ranges of winter weather warnings and advisories ever recorded.”
As many as 1.8 million U.S. homes and businesses were without power as of early Saturday morning, according to tracking site Poweroutage.us, as energy systems across the country were strained by increased heat demand and storm-related damage to transmission lines.
The disruptions have disrupted daily routines and vacation plans for millions of Americans during the busiest travel period of the year.
AAA estimates that 112.7 million people plan to venture 50 miles (80 kilometers) or more from home between Friday and January. 2. But the stormy weather heading into the weekend may end up keeping many of them at home.
At least 3,741 U.S. flights were canceled on Saturday, with a total of 10,297 delays, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware. More than 5,000 flights were canceled on Friday, the flight tracker said.
The city of Buffalo and surrounding counties on the edge of Lake Erie in western New York imposed a driving ban, and all three border crossing bridges in the Buffalo area were closed to inbound traffic from Canada due to the weather.
Severe weather has prompted authorities across the country to open heating centers in libraries and police stations, while scrambling to expand temporary shelters for the homeless. The challenge has been compounded by the influx of thousands of migrants across the U.S. southern border in recent weeks.
Strong winds exacerbated the bitter cold, stretching from the Deep South to the U.S.-Mexico border, with wind chill dipping into the single digits in El Paso, Texas (minus 18 to minus 13 degrees Celsius). Exposure to such conditions can cause frostbite within minutes.
Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Additional reporting by Joel Schectman, Gabriella Borter, Tim Reid, Lisa Baertlein, Erwin Seba, Susan Heavey, Laila Kearney, Alyson McClaren, Aleksandra Michalska and Scott DiSavino; Additional reporting by Steve Gorman ); Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Aurora Ellis, William Mallard, and Diane Craft
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