Two people died overnight in New York state and were stranded for hundreds of hours on an interstate in Kentucky Saturday morning before an evacuation. The incidents marked the latest in a string of emergencies caused by a devastating winter storm that disrupted travel and forced people across the nation before Christmas.
Two people died Friday night in Cheektowaga, New York — a suburb near Buffalo — when emergency medical personnel were unable to reach their homes due to weather conditions, Poloncarz said. It was not immediately clear what health conditions prompted the need for medical attention.
The incidents brought the death toll from the storm to at least eight.
“It was a very, very bad night in our community,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz.
Rescue crews are working to free people trapped in their vehicles, with at least 50 rescues so far, Erie County officials said Saturday afternoon. The driving ban remains in effect.
At a news conference on Saturday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said 73,000 homes in the region were without power, adding that she planned to apply for an emergency declaration from the federal government.
“It’s life-threatening as we speak in Buffalo,” Hochul said at a news conference Saturday.
Hochul declared the storm a state of emergency on Thursday and the next day deployed 54 members of the National Guard to Erie County to support the ongoing emergency response.
Stopped in Kentucky
Meanwhile, more than 700 vehicles were stuck for hours on a 14-mile stretch of interstate in Kentucky Saturday morning as emergency officials struggled to clear the road, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said. By late morning, most people had been evacuated, Beshear added.
“The roads are treacherous,” Beshear said. “We urge Kentuckians to stay home to ensure their safety and to help our first responders and our road crews do their jobs.”
Meredith and Matthew Mikesell – a husband and wife from Louisville, Kentucky – earlier told an ABC News affiliate that they were stuck on the interstate for nearly 12 hours Saturday morning.
The couple, who were traveling to Matthew’s parents’ home in Columbus, Ohio, for Christmas have started the car’s engine because of the heat, but say they are running out of food and water.
A nearby truck driver gave them water, sandwiches and a granola bar, they added.
“We would have really hurt if it wasn’t for him,” Matthew said.
Cancellations, delayed deliveries and interruptions
Millions of Americans were traveling before Christmas amid a massive winter storm that set a record for annual flight cancellations on Friday, Dec. 23.
Nearly 6,000 flights — 5,930 in all — were canceled Friday in and out of the United States, according to the FlightAware tracking site.
The previous record for the year was set on February 3, when 5,247 flights were canceled.
Massive storm brings icy conditions and icy roads to the US as holiday travel gets underway.
FedEx and UPS warned that customers could see delays in Christmas deliveries due to the weather’s impact on major shipping hubs.
States of emergency have been declared from South Dakota to New York.
“This is a very severe weather alert,” President Joe Biden warned Thursday. “Please take this storm very seriously.”
Danger on the roads
Four people are dead after a crash Friday afternoon involving at least 46 vehicles on the Ohio Turnpike, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
State police, including New York, Illinois and Michigan, are asking people to stay off the roads.
Michigan State Police said nine semi-tractor trailers were involved in a crash Friday on Interstate 94 in Berrien County, where “visibility is near zero.” According to the police, seven cars have been piled up in the same area.
“Thousands of our first responders, emergency management personnel and utility crews are working today to keep New Yorkers safe,” Hochule said Friday. “I urge everyone to stay off the roads this evening as conditions will worsen later today as temperatures drop across the state. Buckle up, stay indoors and stay safe this weekend.”
More than 2,000 miles of Minnesota highways were closed or no travel was advised, the state Department of Transportation said. updated Friday afternoon, with whiteout conditions, drifting snow and extreme temperatures making travel dangerous.