A deadly winter snowstorm leaves the US in a pre-Christmas freeze

Ice decorates a fountain in Charleston, South Carolina on December 24, 2022, as a deadly winter storm blanketed much of the United States with freezing temperatures, fierce winds, and blinding snow.

A fearsome winter storm that battered the United States with blinding snow and strong arctic winds left about a million customers without power on Saturday as thousands of canceled flights stranded travelers in a last-minute Christmas rush.

At least 17 weather-related deaths have been confirmed in eight states as heavy snowfall, howling winds and dangerously cold temperatures kept much of the nation, including the normally temperate South, in a freezing grip for a third straight day.

Winter storm Bomb Cyclone, one of the most violent in decades, had already forced the cancellation of 2,300 US flights and the delay of 5,300 others as of Saturday, a day after nearly 6,000 were scrapped, according to tracking website Flightaware.com.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg tweeted Saturday that “the most extreme disruptions are behind us as flight and airport operations begin to recover” – words that stuck to travelers stranded at airports including Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Detroit and New York .

New York City resident Zack Cuyler, whose flight home to Houston was delayed on December 22 and then canceled twice this week, was “quite muted” about the chaos.

The 35-year-old is now hoping to reach his loved ones by December 25. “I’m just glad I can see my family for Christmas,” he told AFP.

Antonio Smothers jump-starts his vehicle when a severe winter storm hits Nashville, Tennessee on December 23, 2022

Antonio Smothers jump-starts his vehicle when a severe winter storm hits Nashville, Tennessee on December 23, 2022.

In hard-hit New York state, Gov. Kathy Hochul deployed the National Guard to Erie County and its capital, Buffalo, where authorities said emergency services essentially collapsed in the face of extreme snowstorm conditions.

“There are probably hundreds of people still stuck in vehicles,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said early Saturday, adding that the National Guard “was dispatched directly to the city of Buffalo for these life-threatening rescue operations.”

Road ice and white-out conditions also resulted in the closure of some of the nation’s busiest thoroughfares, including the cross-country Interstate 70, parts of which were temporarily closed in Colorado and Kansas.

The national weather service warned of deadly conditions and urged residents of affected areas to stay indoors. On Friday, wind chills were said to have dropped temperatures to -55 Fahrenheit (-48 degrees Celsius).

The biting cold is an immediate concern for the roughly one million power customers who were still without power as of 1830 GMT on Saturday, according to tracker poweroutage.us.

Some cities, including the state of North Carolina, began implementing rolling power outages due to high electricity demand, leaving people in some cases unable to safely heat their homes.

Passengers queue to go through security at Detroit Metro Airport in Romulus, Michigan

Passengers queue to go through security at Detroit Metro Airport in Romulus, Michigan.

frustration grows

In El Paso, Texas, desperate migrants who had crossed over from Mexico thronged to warm up at churches, schools and a civic center, Rosa Falcon, a school teacher and volunteer, told AFP.

But some still chose to stay outside in cold temperatures because they feared attention from immigration officials, she added.

In Chicago, Burke Patten of Night Ministry, a nonprofit dedicated to helping the homeless, said, “We gave out cold-weather gear, including coats, hats, gloves, thermals, blankets and sleeping bags, and hand and foot warmers.”

The National Weather Service forecast dangerously cold conditions would persist throughout the central and eastern United States over the weekend before temperatures return to more normal seasonal weather patterns next week.

In Canada, some took to the bitter cold, including stoic last-minute holiday shoppers in downtown Toronto.

An outreach worker as Majo delivers relief supplies to people living at a homeless camp in Louisville, Kentucky on December 23, 2022

A outreach worker delivers relief supplies to people living in a homeless camp in Louisville, Kentucky December 23, 2022 as a severe storm ahead of the Christmas holidays with temperatures hitting 40 degrees below average swept across U.S. communities.

Canadian provinces have nevertheless issued severe weather warnings. Hundreds of thousands were left without power in Ontario and Quebec, while many flights were canceled at airports in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

Passengers on several stalled Ontario trains say they have spent up to 18 hours in the carriages due to extreme weather conditions, including University of Ottawa student Darcy Pyrell, who told CP24 on Friday she had a thermos of macaroni and Cheese for dinner – and nothing since.

“A four-hour drive now takes 18 hours,” driver Lucy Ellis told the Toronto Star. “We are all very tired. I slept on the floor for an hour, the frustration is growing.”

Floods, strong winds

In the US, transportation officials in several prairie states reported near-zero visibility whiteouts, ice-covered roads and snowstorms, urging residents to stay home.

Motorists have been warned not to take to the roads – even as the nation hit what is typically the busiest travel time of the year.

Formation of a “bomb cyclone”

Explanation of bomb cyclone formation: a violent storm with a center of low pressure that can cause snowstorms, severe thunderstorms, and heavy precipitation.

By Friday afternoon, the storm had achieved “bomb cyclone” status after 24 hours of precipitous pressure drops.

Bomb cyclones produce heavy rain or snow. They can also cause coastal flooding and generate hurricane-force winds.

Toronto meteorologist Kelsey McEwen tweeted that waves up to eight meters were being reported in Lake Erie, while Ohio’s Fairport Harbor was experiencing 74 mph winds, the NWS tweeted.

© 2022 AFP

Citation: Deadly Winter Blizzard Leaves US in Pre-Christmas Freeze (December 24, 2022) Retrieved December 24, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-12-deadly-winter-blizzard-pre-christmas-deep.html

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