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Treacherous storm kills at least 17, disrupts holiday travel, knocks out power

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A severe winter storm flattened hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses across the United States on Saturday, leaving millions worried about the prospect of further disruptions and paralyzing police, firefighters and a snow-covered New York state airport.

Nationwide, officials attributed at least 17 deaths to exposure, icy car accidents and other effects from the storm, including two people who died in their homes outside Buffalo, New York, when emergency crews were unable to reach them. them amid historic blizzard conditions. 🇧🇷

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said Saturday that Buffalo Niagara International Airport will be closed until Monday morning and nearly all fire trucks in Buffalo were stuck in the snow.

“No matter how many emergency vehicles we have, they cannot get through the conditions as we speak,” Hochul said.

storm of 2022

The fountain is frozen over as temperatures hover in the mid-20s at Jacob Schoen & Son Funeral Home in New Orleans, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022. Millions of Americans are facing blinding blizzards, freezing rain, flooding and life-threatening cold during Christmas, as a winter storm of unprecedented scope crosses most of the country. (David Grunfeld/The Advocate via AP)SHOVEL

Blinding blizzards, freezing rain and freezing cold also cut power from Maine to Seattle, while a major utility operator has warned the 65 million people it serves across the eastern US that ongoing blackouts may be needed.

Pennsylvania-based PJM Interconnection said power plants are having difficulty operating in the cold weather and urged residents in 13 states to avoid unnecessary use of electricity. The Tennessee Valley Authority, which provides electricity to 10 million people in Tennessee and parts of six surrounding states, instructed local power companies to implement planned outages, but ended the measure on Saturday afternoon.

Across the six New England states, more than 329,000 electrical customers remained without power as of Saturday morning, with Maine being hardest hit and some utilities warning it could be days before power is restored. PJM Interconnection, which covers all or parts of 13 states and Washington, DC, also warned that ongoing blackouts may be necessary.

storm of 2022

Icicles hang from ornamental plants at sunrise on Saturday, December 24, 2022, in Plant City, Florida. Farmers spray their crops with sprinklers to help protect them. Overnight temperatures dropped into the mid-20s. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)SHOVEL

In North Carolina, 265,000 customers were without power on Saturday afternoon, according to poweroutage.us. Among them was James Reynolds of Greensboro, who said his best friend and housemate, a 70-year-old man with diabetes and severe arthritis, spent the morning huddled next to his kerosene heater.

“The rooms and much of the house’s temperatures are hovering in the 50s,” Reynolds told The Associated Press.

In the Buffalo, New York suburb of Cheektowaga, two people died in their homes on Friday when emergency crews were unable to reach them in time to treat their medical emergencies, according to the Erie County Executive, Mark Poloncarz.

“This could be the worst storm in the history of our community,” Poloncarz said Saturday morning. “There are still probably hundreds of people trapped in vehicles.”

Colleen Darby, 59, of Williamsville, outside Buffalo, says she planned a Christmas party for family and friends, but the storm will keep her and her daughter home with a fridge full of food.

“I’ve never seen this type of storm before,” said Darby, a lifelong resident of the area. “I can’t even leave my house right now. The snow hits my chest.

storm of 2022

A person clears snow from a sidewalk during a snowstorm on Saturday, December 24, 2022 in Buffalo, NY A severe winter storm knocked power to 1.7 million homes and businesses across the United States on Saturday. Governor Kathy Hochul said Saturday that Buffalo Niagara International Airport will be closed through Monday morning, some roads will be closed through Christmas Day, and nearly all fire trucks in Buffalo are stuck in snow. (AP photo/Carolyn Thompson)SHOVEL

Poloncarz said there is no emergency service available in Buffalo and several surrounding populated communities because so many emergency vehicles are stuck in the snow. He said a doctor had to talk to a woman and her pregnant sister during the delivery of her sister’s baby.

The Christmas weekend storm follows another blizzard that dumped over 6 feet of snow across western and northern New York, resulting in three deaths, just over a month ago. New York often sees dramatic lake-effect snow, caused by cold air absorbing moisture from warm water and releasing it in bands of windblown snow over land.

On the Ohio Turnpike, four died in a major pileup involving about 50 vehicles. A Kansas City, Missouri, driver was killed Thursday after skidding into a creek, and three others were killed Wednesday in separate accidents on icy roads in northern Kansas.

storm of 2022

A car is left on the side of the road due to dangerous road conditions on Friday, December 23, 2022 in Seattle. Winter weather is blanketing the US with a massive storm that has sent temperatures plummeting and created bleaching conditions. (Kevin Clark/The Seattle Times via AP)SHOVEL

A utility worker in Ohio was also killed Friday while trying to restore power, one company said. The Buckeye Rural Electric Cooperative said the 22-year-old died in “an electrical contact incident” near Pedro, in Lawrence County.

A woman in Vermont died in a hospital on Friday after a tree snapped in high winds and fell on her. Colorado Springs police said they found the body of a person who appeared to be homeless as subzero temperatures and snow pounded the area. In Madison, Wisconsin, a 57-year-old woman died on Friday after falling through ice in a river, the Rock County Sheriff’s Office announced.

In Lansing, Michigan, an 82-year-old woman died after she was found Friday morning curled up in snow outside her assisted living community, Bath Township Police said. A snowplow driver found the woman when temperatures hovered around 10 degrees.

storm of 2022

Capitol Hill residents can wear weather-appropriate spikes to combat icy streets on Friday, December 23, 2022 in Seattle. Winter weather is blanketing the US with a massive storm that has sent temperatures plummeting and created bleaching conditions. (Daniel Kim/The Seattle Times via AP)SHOVEL

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said one person died in a traffic accident attributed to weather in western Kentucky and a homeless person died in Louisville.

Along Interstate 71 in Kentucky, Terry Henderson and her husband, Rick, were stuck in a massive traffic jam caused by multiple accidents for 34 hours. The truckers braved the wait on a platform equipped with a diesel heater, a toilet and a refrigerator, but they still regretted trying to drive from Alabama to their home near Akron, Ohio, on Christmas.

“I wish we had stayed,” Terry Henderson said after they moved back in on Saturday. “We should have sat down.”

The storm was almost unprecedented in its scope, stretching from the Great Lakes near Canada to the Rio Grande along the border with Mexico. About 60% of the US population faced some type of winter weather warning or alert, and temperatures dropped sharply below normal east of the Rocky Mountains into the Appalachians, the National Weather Service said.

As millions of Americans were traveling before Christmas, more than 2,360 flights in, out of, or in the US were canceled on Saturday, according to tracking website FlightAware. While in Mexico, the migrants camped near the US border in unusually low temperatures while awaiting a US Supreme Court ruling on pandemic-era restrictions that prevent many from seeking asylum.

Meteorologists said a bomb cyclone – when atmospheric pressure drops very quickly in a severe storm – has developed near the Great Lakes, triggering blizzard conditions, including high winds and snow.

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