18 die as monster storm brings rain, snow, cold across US | World


Buffalo, US: A freezing winter storm killed at least 18 people across the country, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses and leaving millions facing the prospect of blackouts on Christmas Eve.

The storm unleashed its full fury in Buffalo, New York as hurricane-force winds caused whiteout conditions. Emergency response efforts were halted and the city’s international airport was closed.

Across the US, officials have attributed deaths to exposure, car crashes, fallen tree limbs and other effects of the storm. At least three people died in the Buffalo area, two suffered medical emergencies at their homes and could not be saved because emergency crews were unable to reach them amid historic snow conditions.

Deep snow, single-digit temperatures and days of power outages forced Buffalo residents to leave their homes Saturday wherever it was warm. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said Buffalo Niagara International Airport will remain closed until Monday morning and nearly all of Buffalo’s fire trucks were stuck in the snow.

No matter how many emergency vehicles we have, they cannot exceed the requirements as we speak, Hochul said.

Blinding winds, freezing rain and freezing cold also knocked out power from Maine to Seattle, and a major power grid operator warned the 65 million people it serves in the eastern US that permanent blackouts were needed.

Pennsylvania’s PJM Interconnection said power plants are struggling to operate in cold weather and urged residents in 13 states to save electricity at least through Christmas morning.

The Tennessee Valley Authority, which provides electricity to 10 million people in Tennessee and parts of six surrounding states, ordered local power companies to implement planned outages, but ended the measure by Saturday afternoon.

Kickoff for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans game in Nashville was delayed an hour due to a planned power outage.

In six New England states, more than 273,000 electric customers were without power Saturday, with Maine the hardest hit and some utilities saying it could be days before power is restored.

In North Carolina, 169,000 customers were without power Saturday evening, down from a peak of more than 485,000, but utilities said outages would continue for the next several days.

Among those without power was James Reynolds of Greensboro, whose housemate, a 70-year-old with diabetes and severe arthritis, said he spent the morning huddled next to a kerosene heater with indoor temperatures in the 50s.

In the Buffalo neighborhood of Cheektowaga, two people died in their homes on Friday when emergency crews could not arrive in time to treat their medical conditions, according to Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. He said another person died in Buffalo and said the blizzard could be the biggest storm in our community’s history.

It took the ambulance more than three hours to make a trip to a hospital, Poloncarz said.

Forecasters said 28 inches (71 centimeters) of snow piled up in Buffalo on Saturday. Last month, areas south of Buffalo saw a record 6 feet of snow (about 1.8 meters) from a single storm.

The latest storm tore through Brian LaPrade’s furnace in Buffalo, where he woke up Saturday morning to find the temperature inside had dropped below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius).

“I had to go outside this morning to get wind,” LaPrad said. In fact, the snow was higher than my snow.

Plows were on the roads, but heavy snowdrifts, abandoned cars and downed power lines were slowing progress.

On the Ohio Turnpike, four were killed in a pileup involving about 50 vehicles. A Kansas City, Missouri, driver died Thursday after going into a creek, and three others died Wednesday in separate crashes on icy roads in northern Kansas.

An Ohio utility worker also died Friday while trying to restore power, according to Buckeye Rural Electric Cooperative. He said the 22-year-old was electrocuted near Pedro in Lawrence County.

On Friday, a Vermont woman died in a hospital after she fell on top of a broken tree in high winds. Police in Colorado Springs say the body of a person who appeared to be homeless has been found as sub-zero temperatures and snow descend on the region. A 57-year-old woman died Friday after falling through the ice in a river near Janesville, Wisconsin, the Rock County Sheriff’s Office said.

On Interstate 71 in Kentucky, Terry Henderson and her husband, Rick, were stuck for 34 hours in traffic caused by multiple accidents. The truckers endured the wait in a rig equipped with a diesel heater, toilet and refrigerator, but still regretted trying to drive from Alabama to their home near Akron, Ohio, for Christmas.

We should stop, said Terry Henderson, after he started moving again on Saturday.

The storm was almost unprecedented in its scope, from the Great Lakes near Canada to the Rio Grande along the Mexican border. About 60 percent of the U.S. population was under a winter weather warning or advisory, and temperatures dropped sharply below normal from the Rocky Mountains east to the Appalachians, the National Weather Service said.

With millions of Americans traveling ahead of Christmas, more than 2,360 flights were canceled Saturday in or out of the US, according to tracking site FlightAware. While in Mexico, the migrants camped near the U.S. border in unseasonably cold temperatures, awaiting a U.S. Supreme Court decision on pandemic-era restrictions that prevent many from seeking asylum.

Forecasters said a bomb cyclone has developed near the Great Lakes when pressure drops very quickly in a severe storm, causing gusty conditions, including strong winds and snow.

Western New York often sees dramatic lake effect snow, as cold air picks up moisture from warm water and then drops it onto the ground. But nearby residents also found dire conditions on Christmas Eve.

Latricia Stroud said she and her two daughters, ages 1 and 12, have been without heat or electricity in their Buffalo home since Friday afternoon because the snow was too deep to leave.

I have to get over a snowbank to get out, Stroud told the AP. There’s a warming center, I just need a walk to get there.

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