A prolonged winter storm causes power outages, travel disruptions and freezing temperatures

(CNN) — The dangerously cold wind chill continued on Christmas morning across much of the United States after a winter storm The nearly week-long storm will drop temperatures to life-threatening lows, cause blizzards and coastal flooding, and knock out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses.

Blizzard conditions persisted on the Great Lakes Sunday as frigid temperatures gripped the eastern two-thirds of the country, with some big cities Southeast, Midwest, and East Coast posting their coldest Christmas in decades.

More than 55 million people remain under wind chill alerts this Sunday morning, and there are frost warnings in the south of the country.

Temperatures are expected to pick up later in the week, with a very welcome upward trend and above normal temperatures.

Many Floridians will experience their coldest Christmas yet: It will be the coldest December 25 since 1983 in Miami, Tampa, Orlando and West Palm Beach.

New York City posted record cold temperatures on Christmas Eve at several locations, including JFK and LaGuardia airports. The maximum in Central Park was -9 degrees Celsius, which is the second coldest December 24 in at least 150 years, according to the National Metereological Service.

At least 22 deaths have been blamed on dangerous weather conditions since Wednesday, with some residents in the northeast spending the holidays without sufficient heat or hot water as bitterly cold temperatures persist.

Nearly 175,000 US homes and businesses were without power as of 8:30 a.m. ET, many of them in Maine and New York, according to poweroutage.us. Since the start of the storm, the number of outages has at times exceeded a million customers.

A power grid operator from at least 13 states in the eastern half of the country asked customers to save energy and set their thermostats lower than usual from early Saturday morning until 10 a.m. Sunday because usage was straining capacity.

The operator, PJM Interconnection, serves some 65 million people in all or part of Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia, and warned that blackouts could occur if the load was excessive.

In New York, utilities Con Edison and Natural Grid US also urged customers to conserve power, citing extreme weather conditions and increased demand for power on the interstate pipelines that carry natural gas to the city.

Meanwhile, electricity shortages in Texas prompted the US Department of Energy on Friday to declare an emergency situation, allowing the state’s power provider to exceed environmental emissions standards until power use declines. .

In Jackson, Mississippi, freezing temperatures are hampering efforts to repair a large water main break late Saturday, causing a loss of water pressure for residents, city officials said.

“We are so grateful to the crews who brave these frigid temperatures on this Christmas Eve night as they work to restore pressure to residents. Their sacrifice does not go unnoticed and is appreciated not only by this administration, but also by all affected residents.” , the statement states.

Brutal weather conditions have also made travel difficult over the busy holiday weekend, with more than 5,000 canceled flights on Friday, more than 3,400 flights canceled on Saturday, and more than 1,350 canceled for Christmas Day.

Road conditions were no better in some parts of the country, with blizzard conditions and roads covered in ice and snow.

In New York’s Erie County, where the blizzard has wreaked havoc, about 500 motorists were trapped in their vehicles between Friday night and Saturday morning, despite the county’s ban on driving during the storm, according to County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

National Guard troops were called in to help “rescue people trapped in the vehicles” and to take medical workers to relieve colleagues who had been working at hospitals for more than a day, Poloncarz said.

Buffalo, located in Erie County, measured 43 inches of snow as of 8:45 am ET Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.

Snow covers a vehicle on December 24, 2022, in Hamburg, New York.  (Photo: John Normile/Getty Images)

Snow covers a vehicle on December 24, 2022, in Hamburg, New York. (Photo: John Normile/Getty Images)

Dangerous weather conditions claim lives

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said Saturday that she will ask the federal government “for a declaration of emergency that allows us to request reimbursement for the extraordinary expenses of all the overtime and the fact that we have brought in mutual aid from other parts of the state.” “.

All three storm-related New York deaths were in Erie County. Two died in separate incidents Friday night, when emergency medical personnel were unable to reach their homes in time to attend to medical emergencies, Poloncarz said Saturday morning. Details about the third death, confirmed by a county spokesperson on Saturday afternoon, were not immediately available.

“The loss of two lives in Buffalo, related to the storm, because people couldn’t get medical attention, is again a crisis situation unfolding before your eyes and you realize that ambulances and emergency medical personnel that save lives cannot reach people during a blizzard situation,” Hochul added.

Other storm-related deaths have been reported across the country. These include:

  • Colorado: Police in Colorado Springs, Colorado, reported two cold-related deaths since Thursday, with a man found near a building’s power transformer possibly seeking heat, and another at an alley encampment.
  • Kansas: Three people have died in weather-related traffic accidents, the Kansas Highway Patrol said Friday.
  • Kentucky: Three people have died in the state, according to authorities, including one in a traffic accident in Montgomery County.
  • Missouri: One person died after a camper skidded off an icy road and plunged into a frozen creek, Kansas City police said.
  • Ohio: Eight people have died as a result of weather-related car accidents, including four in a crash Saturday morning on Interstate 75 when a semi-truck crossed the median and collided with an SUV and a pickup truck, authorities said.
  • Tennessee: The Tennessee Department of Health confirmed one storm-related fatality Friday.
  • Wisconsin: The Wisconsin State Patrol reported a fatal accident Thursday due to winter weather.

What to expect as the storm slowly weakens and hazardous conditions continue

Strong winds behind the arctic cold front that pushed through this week will lead to lake-effect snow and blizzard conditions at times across portions of the Great Lakes this Sunday.

Blizzard warnings, winter storm warnings, and winter weather advisories cover much of the Upper Midwest, the Great Lakes region, and the Ohio Valley.

An additional 8 to 16 inches of lake effect snow is possible.

The storm system is expected to gradually weaken as it rises over southeastern Canada, moving slowly over the next couple of days and pulling arctic Canadian air down over much of the eastern side of the country.

The arctic gust will slowly taper off towards Monday.

According to the National Weather Servicelow temperatures combined with dangerous wind chill will create a life-threatening hazard for stranded travelers, people who work outdoors, livestock and pets.

“In some areas, being outdoors could cause frostbite within minutes,” the Weather Service warned.

As frigid air continues to batter the warm waters of the Great Lakes, lake-effect snowfall and blizzard conditions are expected to continue, but gradually fade.

Still, the strong winds gusting to 60 mph that accompany snow downwind of the Great Lakes will continue to create extremely hazardous road conditions.

By Christmas night through Monday, another low-pressure system from the Pacific will deliver the next surge of moisture into the Pacific Northwest and then into northern California, according to the Weather Service.

CNN’s Joe Sutton, Isa Kaufman-Geballe, Celina Tebor, Mike Saenz and David J. Lopez contributed to this report.

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