More than 950,000 homes and businesses nationwide were without power on Christmas Eve, thanks to an Arctic blast and winter storm that tore down power lines with destructive winds and heavy snow and dipped temperatures dangerously low – conditions killing at least 15 people.
As bone-chilling air continues to grip the US this holiday weekend, the storm still is pummeling parts of the Upper Midwest and interior Northeast with heavy snow and blizzard conditions.
In New York’s Buffalo area particularly, heavy snow (more than 2 feet in places) and strong winds (sometimes higher than 60 mph) at times made visibility close to zero Friday into Saturday. More than a foot more could fall Saturday, with winds gusting up to 65 mph and making temperatures feel well below zero.
“Don’t leave your home,” Mark Poloncarz, executive of Erie County, which includes Buffalo, said on CNN Saturday to anyone thinking about traveling to or within the area. “It’s much safer to be inside, even if you lost your power with it only being 45 degrees inside, than going out and dealing with minus 20 wind chills and blinding conditions.”
Even where it wasn’t snowing and howling, temperatures and wind chills have been dangerously low across much of the country.
From the Plains and the Midwest to the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic and even in parts of the Southeast, wind chills after the sun rose Saturday morning were below zero, according to the National Weather Service.
• Atlanta: 9 degrees; with minus 8 wind chill
• Memphis: 10 degrees; with minus 4 wind chill
• New York City: 8 degrees; with minus 8 wind chill
• St. Louis: 9 degrees; with minus 12 wind chill
• Washington, DC: 12 degrees; with minus 3 wind chill
At least 15 people have died since Wednesday across seven states, a result of dangerous and life-threatening conditions this week over a large swath of the country:
• Kansas: Three people have died in weather-related traffic accidents, the Kansas Highway Patrol said Friday.
• Kentucky: Three people have died in the state, officials have said, including one involving a vehicle accident in Montgomery County.
• Missouri: One person died after a caravan slid off an icy road and into a frozen creek, Kansas City police said.
• New York: Two people died Friday night in Erie County, in separate incidents, when emergency medical personnel could not get to their homes in time for medical emergencies, according to Poloncarz, the county executive.
• Ohio: Four people have died “as a result of weather-related auto accidents,” Gov. Mike DeWine said.
• Tennessee: The Tennessee Department of Health on Friday confirmed one storm-related fatality.
• Wisconsin: Wisconsin State Patrol on Thursday reported one fatal crash due to winter weather.
In pictures: Winter storm impacts the US
As of 1:05 p.m ET Saturday, more than 950,000 homes and businesses in the US had no electricity service, according to PowerOutage.us, which means millions of people likely do not have proper heating or hot water as extremely low temperatures persist Saturday.
Hundreds of drivers across multiple states, including New York, South Dakota and Minnesota, were stranded this week and needed rescuing. Some states have closed major highways to deter drivers from getting behind the wheel.
In the Buffalo area Friday night into Saturday morning, hundreds of people were stuck in their vehicles, according to Poloncarz, the Erie County executive. In hardest-hit areas, many emergency crews that tried to reach the stranded became stuck themselves, he said.
National Guard troops were arriving Saturday to “rescue people that are stuck in vehicles,” and to give rides to medical workers so they could relieve colleagues who’d been working at hospitals for more than a day, Poloncarz said.
To the northeast, New York’s Jefferson County – which includes Watertown and Fort Drum – banned travel on Saturday because of blizzard conditions, state police announced. Watertown itself received 14 inches of snow Friday into Saturday morning, the National Weather Service said.
In Tennessee, utilities intermittently interrupted power to customers for a few hours Saturday morning at the behest of the Tennesee Valley Authority – the state’s federally owned electricity provider – because the frigid weather was straining capacity.
The Nashville Electric Service told customers Saturday morning to expect “rotating, intermittent power outages” in about 10-minute increments every 90 minutes to two hours.
The TVA announced shortly before 11 a.m. CT that the interruptions were no longer needed.
During the rolling blackouts, Nashville’s mayor asked the NFL’s Tennessee Titans to postpone their scheduled noon CT Saturday home game against the Houston Texans. The NFL responded that it would delay the start to 1 p.m. CT, and that it was “exploring every possibility to minimize non-essential power around the stadium.”
More than 5,000 flights were canceled Friday with thousands more delayed, and more than 2,100 flights have been canceled Saturday.
• Cold for many: Wind chills will be dangerously cold across much of the central and eastern US this weekend. “The life-threatening cold temperatures and dangerous wind chills will create a potentially life-threatening hazard for travelers that become stranded,” the National Weather Service said early Saturday.
• Record temps in the South: Atlanta and Tallahassee, Florida, were forecast to have their coldest high temperature ever recorded on December 24, according to the weather service.
• Brutal cold elsewhere: Philadelphia and Pittsburgh were expected to see their coldest day Christmas Eve ever on Saturday. Washington, DC, could see its second-coldest on Christmas Eve, the first being in 1989. New York is set to experience its coldest Christmas Eve since 1906. Chicago is expecting temperatures to rebound above zero but will still experience its coldest Christmas Eve since 1983..