A huge winter storm hit the United States on Friday with freezing temperatures, high winds and heavy snowfall, killing several people, knocking out power to more than a million customers and destroying holiday plans. coast to coast.
“Christmas is canceled,” said Mick Saunders, a resident of Buffalo, New York, who had stayed two hours in blizzard conditions expected to last through Sunday morning. “All family members and friends agreed it was safer that way.”
The storm – which is expected to intensify throughout Friday as it moves through the Midwest and East – is creating gloomy road conditions with poor visibility and icy streets.
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A handful of deaths have already been reported. In north-central Kansas, three people were killed in separate car crashes Wednesday night; one death has been confirmed to be weather-related, and two are thought to be weather-related but require further investigation, according to Kansas Highway Patrol spokesperson Lt. Candice Breshears.
And in Kentucky, three people died from the storm, including two in vehicle crashes and the other a “housing insecure” person in Louisville, Gov. Andy Beshear said.
In pictures: Winter storm hits the United States
The life-threatening cold pushed all the way to the Gulf Coast and the Mexican border, with sub-zero wind chills reported as far south as Austin and Atlanta. Forecasts call for near-record low temperatures for Christmas Eve on Saturday in cities like Washington DC and Atlanta and parts of Florida.
Damaging winds behind the front knocked out power to about 1.5 million customers as of 1:30 p.m. ET, with outages stretching from Texas to New England, according to the PowerOutage.US website. More importantly, North Carolina had more than 180,000 customers without power, while Virginia, Tennessee, Maine and New York each had more than 100,000 customers without power, according to the site.
Travel is also trapped, with hundreds of miles of road closures and flight cancellations rising rapidly. The storm is also causing coastal flooding, particularly in the northeast.
In total, more than 200 million people in the United States were under wind chill alert from the Canadian border to the Mexican border and from Washington state to Florida, with sub-zero wind chills expected in the south- is by Friday. Other winter weather alerts are in effect for blizzard conditions, ice, snow, and flooding.
“The National Weather Service’s Watch Warning chart represents one of the largest spans of winter weather warnings and advisories,” the agency said Thursday.
Notably, parts of Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming have already experienced wind chills below minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit for the past two days.
“The ongoing major winter storm will continue to produce areas of heavy snow, strong winds and life-threatening wind chills through Saturday. If you are traveling for the holidays, please exercise extreme caution and pay attention to the latest forecasts and updates,” the National Weather Service said Thursday.
On Friday, the storm triggered heavier snow and blizzard conditions, particularly in the Midwest.
As it tracks east across the country, the storm is expected to become a “bomb cyclone,” a rapidly strengthening storm that drops 24 millibars of pressure in 24 hours. Pressure from the storm is expected to match that of a Category 2 hurricane as it moves through the Great Lakes on Friday.
Governors in at least 13 states, including Georgia and North Carolina in the south, have put in place emergency measures to respond to the storm. Declarations of states of emergency in several states have included the activation of National Guard units.
Additionally, more than 6,000 flights in the United States were canceled as of 11 a.m. ET Friday, according to FlightAware, with particular issues at airports in the Midwest.
• It will remain very cold: Friday will bring record high temperatures to large swathes of the United States, including the lower Mississippi Valley, northeastward into the Tennessee and Ohio valleys and extending to large sections of the east. southeast, south through central Appalachia and into the middle. -Atlantic, according to the National Weather Service.
• Dangerous wind chills: The drop in temperatures will be accompanied by high winds, which will create dangerous wind chills across much of the east-central United States.
• Blizzard warnings: The Upper Midwest will experience freezing temperatures, heavy snowfall and high winds. The warning applies to parts of Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota and Michigan. Buffalo, New York will experience a blizzard warning Friday morning. Such warnings come into effect when snow and 35 mph winds will reduce visibility to less than a quarter mile for at least three hours.
• Whiteout conditions: Blizzard conditions can exist even if snowfall stops, as high winds can pick up snow already on the ground and cause low visibility.
On Friday, a separate storm system brings heavy mixed precipitation to the Pacific Northwest.
A winter storm warning is in effect for western Washington, including Seattle, through 7 p.m. PST Friday. Additional snowfall of up to 2 inches is possible and ice accumulations could reach a quarter inch. Precipitation will start as snow and change to sleet/freezing rain, then eventually to rain. Other power cuts are likely and travel will be made very difficult.
The ice caused the runways to close at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where nearly half of flights to and from the airport were canceled, according to FlightAware. Additionally, all express services for Sound Transit, a regional transit system in the Seattle metro area, were suspended Friday due to freezing conditions.
A winter storm warning is also in effect for northeast Oregon, including Portland, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. PST. Total snow and sleet accumulations of up to one inch and ice accumulations of 0.2 to 0.4 inches are likely, along with winds gusting to 55 mph. Wind chills as low as zero are possible and frostbite is possible on exposed skin in as little as 30 minutes.
One of the biggest dangers of the massive winter storm, besides the heavy snow and blizzard conditions, is the rapid drop in temperatures over a short period of time. The air will continue to get colder and feel colder, especially during nighttime hours.
More cities are experiencing rapid temperature drops as the arctic air that swept across much of the western United States and the Great Plains this week heads east.
Denver: Within an hour, Denver International Airport saw a 37-degree drop Wednesday, the largest one-hour drop on record there, according to the National Weather Service.
Chicago: Over 11 a.m. Wednesday, Chicago’s temperature dropped 38 degrees; in terms of wind chill, a drop of 53 degrees, from 27 degrees Fahrenheit to minus 26.
Saint Louis: Over 24 hours, from Tuesday to Wednesday evening, the temperature in St. Louis dropped 44 degrees – in wind chill terms, a drop of 61 degrees, from 31 to minus 30.
Memphis: For six hours on Wednesday afternoon and evening, the temperature in Memphis dropped 36 degrees – in wind chill terms, a drop of 54 degrees, from 40 to minus 14.
Nashville: In just two hours Wednesday night, Nashville’s temperature dropped 29 degrees — in wind chill terms, a drop of 41 degrees, from 39 to minus 2.
Dallas: In nine hours on Wednesday, the temperature in Dallas dropped 31 degrees – in wind chill terms, a drop of 44 degrees, from 40 to minus 4.
Little Rock, Arkansas: For nine hours Wednesday afternoon and night, the temperature in Little Rock dropped 36 degrees – in wind chill terms, a drop of 52 degrees, from 41 to minus 11.
Cheyenne, Wyoming: Within about an hour, temperatures in Cheyenne dropped 43 degrees. The capital also experienced a temperature drop of 30 degrees in 10 minutes.