Deadly winter storm disrupts Christmas in the United States | The World | D.W.

The powerful winter storm that hits the United States with heavy snowfall and polar winds left at least 17 dead this Saturday (12.24.2022), more than half a million people without electricity and thousands of travelers stranded due to canceled flights hours before Christmas.

Authorities confirmed at least 17 storm-related deaths in eight states. Heavy snow, hurricane-force winds and dangerously frigid temperatures kept much of the country, including the normally temperate south, frozen for a third straight day on Saturday.

This “bomb cyclone”, a storm defined as “once in a generation” by the National Weather Service (NWS), caused the cancellation of some 2,800 flights on Saturday and the delay of another 6,600, one day after almost 6,000 takeoffs were cancelled, according to the specialized website FlightAware.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg tweeted Saturday that “the most extreme disruptions are behind us as airline and airport operations gradually recover.”

Travelers expect a miracle

Many travelers stranded at airports in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Detroit and New York are hoping for a Christmas miracle that will allow them to arrive in time for the festivities.

This is the case of Zack Cuyler, 35, who will be forced to spend Christmas Eve with friends in New York, after two cancellations of his flight to Houston, where he would meet his family.

Although he confessed “quite overwhelmed” by these postponements, he estimated that he would be able to meet with his loved ones at noon on Sunday, Christmas Day.

Shift blackouts in some cities

According to the site, the states most affected by power outages are North Carolina, Maine and Tennessee, where the thermometer mostly marked temperatures below freezing.

As of 11:00 p.m. CET on Saturday, around 530,000 users were still without power due to effects from extreme cold, according to the site.

Sources froze in Charleston, South Carolina.

Given the high demand for energy, some cities began to implement blackouts in turns, sometimes preventing people from heating their homes.

deadly roads

In many states, roads have become impassable or very dangerous, leading to fatal accidents.

In Ohio, four people were killed in storm-related accidents, Gov. Mike DeWine said.

In New York state, Governor Kathy Hochul deployed the National Guard to Erie County and its main city, Buffalo, where authorities said emergency services collapsed in extreme blizzard conditions.

A travel ban had been issued in this region the day before. But “there are probably hundreds of people trapped in their vehicles, including those who tried to get out late last night,” Erie County Administrator Mark Poloncarz said Saturday. Two people died of medical problems because they could not be rescued, he added.

In Buffalo the snow buried sidewalks, streets and doorways.

In Buffalo the snow buried sidewalks, streets and doorways.

“Don’t leave your vehicle!” local weather services tweeted. “Tie a piece of clothing to your antenna or window to indicate that you need help,” they recommended.

Closure of routes due to ice

The ice on the roads also shut down major highways, including cross-country Interstate 70, with sections of it closed in Colorado and Kansas.

In cities like Denver or Chicago, shelters have been opened to welcome people in need, to allow them to warm up and protect them from the risk of hypothermia.

The storm is expected to last through the weekend before temperatures normalize in the middle of next week, the NWS said.

This type of storm is caused by a “low pressure bomb”, a collision between two air masses, one very cold from the Arctic and the other tropical from the Gulf of Mexico, aggravated because the atmospheric pressure dropped very quickly, in less than 24 hours. .

Canada on weather alert

Until then, “if you must travel or be outdoors, prepare for extreme cold by wearing multiple layers of clothing and covering as much skin as possible,” the service wrote Saturday. “In some places, being outside could cause frostbite in a matter of minutes.”

Forecast strong winds, gusting to over 95 km/h, could cause further damage, including trees falling onto power lines.

Canada was also affected by the storm and all provinces had weather alerts.

Hundreds of thousands of people lost power in Ontario and Quebec, and airports in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal were affected by flight cancellations.

Passengers on several stopped trains in Ontario report having been in the carriages for up to 18 hours due to extreme weather conditions.

jc (afp, efe)

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