Wild winter storm envelops US, snarling Christmas travel
MISSION. Kan. — A wild winter storm continued to envelop the United States on Saturday. It brought with it blinding blizzards and freezing rain, flooding, and dangerously cold temperatures to the majority of the country. A major electricity grid operator serving 65 millions of people in the eastern U.S. states that power plants are experiencing difficulties operating in the cold weather and has asked residents not to use electricity.
Pennsylvania-based PJM Interconnection issued the emergency call for conservation system-wide – asking residents in 13 states to set thermostats lower than usual, to postpone use of major appliances like stoves and dishwashers and to turn off lights. Industrial and commercial power users were also asked to reduce their usage.
” We may be calling for rolling blackouts. One, there is an increase in demand across the PJM network. Susan Buehler, spokesperson of the utility, said that two factors are at play. One, there is an increased demand across the PJM system. Two, some power plants are not able to operate in extreme weather.”
PJM territory covers all or parts of Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.
Adding to the woes were power outages that by early Saturday were still affecting more than 1.7 million homes and businesses, according to the website PowerOutage, which tracks utility reports.
The storm was nearly unprecedented in its scope, stretching from the Great Lakes near Canada to the Rio Grande along the border with Mexico. The National Weather Service stated that 60% of America’s population received some type of winter weather warning or advisory. Temperatures plummeted below normal from the Appalachians to east of the Rocky Mountains.
Freezing drizzle covered much of the Pacific Northwest with a layer of ice. In the Northeast, people were at risk of flooding and coastal flooding.
The frigid temperatures and gusty winds were expected to produce “dangerously cold wind chills across much of the central and eastern U.S. this holiday weekend,” the weather service said, adding that the conditions “will create a potentially life-threatening hazard for travelers that become stranded.”
“In some areas, being outdoors could lead to frostbite in minutes,” it said.
With millions of Americans traveling before Christmas, more than 5 ,700 flights within the U.S., into, or out of the country were cancelled Friday, according FlightAware. Officials said
Six people were killed in crashes on multiple highways. A massive pileup that involved some 50 cars on the Ohio Turnpike resulted in the deaths of four people. A Kansas City, Missouri driver was killed after he crashed into a creek. Three others were also killed in separate accidents on icy roads in northern Kansas.
WestJet cancelled all flights to Canada’s Toronto Pearson International Airport on Friday due to warnings from meteorologists about a rare weather event. As they waited for a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on pandemic-era restrictions that prohibit many from seeking asylum, migrants gathered near the U.S. border while they were in Mexico.
Forecasters said a bomb cyclone — when atmospheric pressure drops very quickly in a strong storm — had developed near the Great Lakes, stirring up blizzard conditions, including heavy winds and snow.
People in Florida were warned about unusually cold weather, as rare freeze warnings were issued across large portions of the state during the holiday weekend.
Activists were racing to get the homeless out of the cold. Nearly 170 children and adults were kept warm in Detroit’s warming center and shelter on Friday morning.
” It was a lot of people” but it wasn’t an option to turn anybody away, Faith Fowler, executive director of Cass Community Social Services which manages both facilities, said.
Emergency shelters in Portland, Oregon needed volunteers due to high demand and staffing problems. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem stated that she was sending the National Guard to transport timber to the Oglala Sioux Tribes and Rosebud Sioux Tribes, and to help with snow removal.
“We have relatives that live far away that we haven’t heard from in the last two weeks,” Wayne Boyd, chief-of-staff to the Rosebud Sioux president, said.
On the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Harlie Young was huddled with five children and her father around a wood stove as 12-foot (3.6-meter) snow drifts blocked the house.
” We’re trying to see the bright side, that they’re still here and they didn’t forget us,” she stated Friday.
Calling it a “kitchen sink hurricane,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a condition of emergency. Tidal flooding caused widespread flooding in New York City on Friday morning.
Some streets in Boston were flooded Friday due to rain and high tide.
Bleed reported from Little Rock, Arkansas. This report was contributed by Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Dee-Ann Durbin, Associated Press journalists in Detroit, Gillian Flaccus, Portland, Oregon, Zeke Miller, Washington, D.C., Emily Wagster Pettus, Jackson, Mississippi, and Marc Levy, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
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