Beatings a winter storm on Saturday knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses across the United States, left millions more worried about the prospect of more outages and paralyzed police, fire departments and an airport in snow-covered New York state. Across the country, officials attributed at least 19 deaths to exposure, ice crashes and other effects of the storm, including two people who died in their homes outside Buffalo, New York, when emergency crews were unable to reach them amid the historic blizzard. .
New York Gov. Cathy Hachul said Saturday that Buffalo-Niagara International Airport would be closed until Monday morning, and nearly all of Buffalo’s fire engines were stranded in the snow.
“No matter how many ambulances we have, they can’t get through the conditions we’re talking about,” Hachul said.
Forecasters were predicting several feet of snow in Buffalo through Sunday, CBS News correspondent Naomi Ruhim reports.
Blinding blizzards, freezing rain and freezing cold also knocked out power from Maine to Seattle, while a major power grid operator warned 65 million people in the eastern US that a permanent power outage may be necessary.
Pennsylvania-based PJM Interconnection said power plants are struggling to operate in the freezing weather and asked residents in 13 states to refrain from using electricity unnecessarily. The Tennessee Valley Authority, which provides power to 10 million people in Tennessee and parts of six surrounding states, ordered local utilities to implement planned outages but put the measure on hold until Saturday afternoon.
More than 329,000 customers were without power in six New England states Saturday morning, with Maine hardest hit and some utilities warning it could be days before power is restored. PJM Interconnection, which covers all or part of 13 states and Washington, D.C., also warned that permanent blackouts may be necessary.
In North Carolina, 265,000 customers were without power Saturday afternoon, according to the data poweroutage.us. Among them was James Reynolds of Greensboro, who said his best friend and housemate, a 70-year-old man with diabetes and severe arthritis, spent the morning curled up next to his kerosene stove.
“Temperatures in the bedrooms and most of the house are in the 50s,” Reynolds told The Associated Press.
Two people died in their homes in the Buffalo suburb of Cheektow on Friday when emergency crews couldn’t get to them in time for emergency medical treatment, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said.
“This could turn out to be the worst storm in the history of our community,” Poloncarz said Saturday morning. “There are still likely hundreds of people stuck in vehicles.”
Colleen Darby, 59, of Williamsville, near Buffalo, says she had planned to throw a Christmas party for family and friends, but the storm will keep her and her daughter at home with a refrigerator full of food.
“I’ve never seen a storm like this,” said Darby, a lifelong resident of the area. “I can’t even leave the house right now. It’s snowing up to my chest.”
Poloncarz said there is no emergency service in Buffalo and several densely populated areas around it because so many emergency vehicles are stuck in the snow. He said the doctor should have talked the woman and her pregnant sister through the delivery of the sister’s baby.
A Christmas weekend storm follows another blizzard Just over a month ago, more than 6 feet of snow fell in western and northern New York, killing three people. New York often experiences severe lake-effect snow, which occurs when cool air absorbs moisture from warm water and then releases it as bands of wind-blown snow over land.
On a highway in Ohio, four people were killed in a mass pileup involving about 50 vehicles. A driver in Kansas City, Missouri, died Thursday after sliding into a creek, and three others died Wednesday in separate crashes on icy roads in northern Kansas.
A utility worker in Ohio was also killed Friday while trying to restore power, the company said. Buckeye Rural Electric Cooperative said a 22-year-old man died in an “electrical contact incident” near Pedro in Lawrence County.
A Vermont woman died in a hospital Friday after strong winds snapped a tree and fell on her. Police in Colorado Springs say they have found the dead body of a man who appeared to be homeless as freezing temperatures and snow hit the region. A 57-year-old woman died Friday after falling through ice on a river in Madison, Wisconsin, the Rock County Sheriff’s Office said.
In Lansing, Michigan, an 82-year-old woman died after she was found curled up in the snow outside her residence Friday morning, Bath police said. A snow plow driver found the woman when the temperature hovered around 10 degrees.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said one person was killed in a weather-related crash in western Kentucky and one homeless person died in Louisville.
Along Interstate 71 in Kentucky, Terri Henderson and her husband, Rick, were stuck in a massive traffic jam caused by multiple accidents for 34 hours. The truck drivers endured the wait in a van equipped with a diesel heater, toilet and refrigerator, but still regretted trying to drive from Alabama to their home near Akron, Ohio, for Christmas.
“It’s a shame we stayed,” Terry Henderson said after they moved again on Saturday. – I had to sit.
The storm was almost unprecedented in its scale, stretching from the Great Lakes near Canada to the Rio Grande along the Mexican border. About 60 percent of the U.S. population was under some kind of winter weather advisory or warning, and temperatures dropped sharply below normal from the Rocky Mountains east to the Appalachians, the National Weather Service said.
With millions of Americans traveling on Christmas Eve, more than 2,360 flights to, from and from the US were canceled on Saturday, according to a tracking website FlightAware. Airlines were caught up due to crew shortages and de-icing, which slowed the return to normalcy, Ruchim reported. In Seattle, ice closed several runways.
In Mexico, migrants camped near the U.S. border in unseasonably cold temperatures as they await a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on pandemic-era restrictions that are preventing many from seeking asylum.
Forecasters said a bomb cyclone — when atmospheric pressure drops very quickly during a severe storm — occurred near the Great Lakes, stirring up a blizzard that included high winds and snow.