(CNN) — More than 1.6 million homes and businesses across the country were without power as of Saturday morning, thanks to a blast from the Arctic and a winter storm that downed power lines with destructive winds, heavy snow and dangerously low temperatures, that killed at least 15 people.
As cold air hits the US this holiday weekend, the storm battered the Midwest and parts of the East with heavy snowfall, blizzards and even flooding along the northeast coast. No reduction in intensity is in sight until the end of Christmas Day.
At least 15 people have died since Wednesday in four states as a result of dangerous and life-threatening conditions in much of the country.
Three people have died in weather-related car accidents in Kansas, the Kansas Highway Patrol told CNN on Friday.
In Kansas City, Missouri, a person died after their vehicle skidded off an icy road and into a frozen creek, Kansas City Police Department first responders said.
Four people were killed in car crashes in Ohio, where others were also injured, Gov. Mike DeWine said.
The Tennessee Department of Health confirmed one storm-related death Friday. The Wisconsin State Patrol reported a fatal crash due to winter weather on Thursday.
Two people died Friday night in Erie County, New York, in separate incidents, when emergency medical personnel were unable to reach their homes in time for medical emergencies, County Executive Mark Poloncarz said Saturday night. tomorrow during a press conference.
Kentucky reported three deaths from the storm: two in car accidents and another was a homeless person in Louisville, Gov. Andy Beshear said. The man’s body was found outside with no obvious signs of trauma.
“Your loved ones care more that you are alive”
For days, forecasters and officials have sounded the alarm about the difficult conditions the storm would bring, while imploring drivers not to take to the icy and snow-covered roads.
“Remember that your loved ones care more about keeping you alive and next Christmas,” Beshear told CNN on Friday.
“We are asking people not to hit the roads… Being together is more important than ever, but staying safe is even more important than that,” Beshear added.
The ominous warning comes as the storm causes blizzard from the Great Lakes and the interior Northeast, bringing the double threat of heavy snow and high winds.
Hundreds of drivers in multiple states, including New York, South Dakota and Minnesota, were stranded this week and in need of rescue. Some states closed major highways to discourage drivers from getting behind the wheel. In addition, more than 5,000 flights were canceled on Friday and more than 10,000 were delayed.
To make matters worse, even if the snowfall stops or lessens, winds are forecast to approach or exceed 60 mph, causing damage and more power outages.
“If you lose power, it will be dangerously cold,” said Jackie Bray, Commissioner of New York Homeland Security and Emergency Services, adding that people should go to shelters provided by some counties. “Please don’t assume you can handle this cold overnight without heating. You may not be able to.”
As of 7:50 a.m. ET, more than 1.6 million homes and businesses were without power, according to PowerOutage.us, meaning millions of residents are likely without heat or hot water due to that extremely cold temperatures persist this Saturday.
This is what can happen this Christmas Eve:
• Cold weather will come for many: More than 175 million people are under wind chill alerts across much of the central and eastern US “Life-threatening cold temperatures will create a life-threatening hazard for stranded travelers the National Weather Service said.
• Record temperatures in the south: Atlanta and Tallahassee, Florida are forecast to have their lowest temperatures ever recorded on December 24, according to the weather service.
• Brutal cold elsewhere: Philadelphia and Pittsburgh will also experience the coldest Christmas Eve in their history this Saturday. The city of Washington could experience its second coldest day on Christmas Eve, the first being in 1989. New York, for its part, will experience its coldest Christmas Eve since 1906. Chicago expects temperatures to rebound above freezing, but will still experience its Coldest Christmas Eve since 1983.
• Flood threats persist: Both the coast and the interior are at risk of flooding in the Northeast from heavy rains falling on top of a melting snowpack. Significant moderate to isolated coastal flooding is possible from strong onshore winds.
CNN’s Britley Ritz, Amanda Watts, Tina Burnside, Ray Sanchez, Eric Levenson, Taylor Ward and Nicki Brown contributed to this report.