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A lingering winter storm causes power outages, difficult travel and freezing temperatures on Christmas Day

A lingering winter storm causes power outages, difficult travel and freezing temperatures on Christmas Day

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CNN

Almost a week winter storm blasting across much of the US dropped temperatures to life-threatening lows, brought blizzards and floods and left more than a quarter of a million people without power on Christmas Day.

Blizzard conditions continue across the Great Lakes, while cool low temperatures cover the eastern two-thirds of the U.S., with some major cities in the Southeast, Midwest and East Coast recorded the coldest Christmas in decades.

Large areas of the central and eastern US remain under wind chill warnings and advisories as freeze warnings are in effect across the South.

New York City saw record low temperatures on Christmas Eve at several locations, including JFK and LaGuardia airports. The high in Central Park was 15 degrees, marking the second-coldest December 24 in at least 150 years, according to National Weather Service.

At least 22 death cases attributed to dangerous weather conditions from Wednesday and some residents in the Northeast are spending the holiday without enough heat or hot water as extremely cold temperatures persist.

In the U.S., 275,856 U.S. homes and businesses were without electric service as of 1 a.m. ET, many of them in Maine and New York, according to PowerOutage.us. Since the start of the storm, the number of outages has exceeded a million customers at times.

Electric grid operator for at least 13 states in the eastern half of the country he asked customers to conserve energy and set thermostats lower than usual from early Saturday until 10 a.m. Sunday as usage strains capacity.

The operator, PJM Interconnection, serves about 65 million people in all or parts of Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia, and warned, that blackouts can occur if the voltage gets too high.

In New York, utilities Con Edison and Natural Grid US also urged customers to conserve energy, citing extreme weather and increased demand for power on interstate pipelines that carry natural gas into the city.

Meanwhile, power shortages in Texas prompted the U.S. Department of Energy to declare a state of emergency on Friday, allowing the state’s energy provider to exceed environmental emissions standards until power consumption falls.

In Jackson, Mississippi, cold temperatures hampered efforts to repair a major water main break late Saturday, causing residents to lose water pressure, city officials said.

“We are grateful to the crews who battled these cold temperatures on this Christmas Eve night while working to restore pressure on residents. Their sacrifice does not go unnoticed and is appreciated not only by this administration, but by every resident who is affected,” the release said.

Brutal weather conditions also hampered travel over the busy holiday weekend, with more than 5000 canceled flights Friday, more than 3,400 flights canceled on Saturday and more than 1,000 canceled for Christmas.

Road conditions were no better in parts of the country with whiteout conditions and icy and snowy roads.

In New York’s Erie County — which saw a violent blizzard — about 500 drivers were stranded in their cars Friday night into Saturday morning despite a countywide driving ban in place during the storm, according to County Executive Mark Polonkarts.

National Guard troops were called in to help “rescue people trapped in vehicles” and transport medical workers so they could relieve their colleagues who had been working in hospitals for more than a day, Poloncarz said.

In Seattle, Washington, online videos documented cars sliding on icy roads and crashing into each, and residents slipping while walking on sidewalks, CNN affiliate ENTER reported.

New York Gov. Cathy Hochul said Saturday she will ask the federal government to “declare a state of emergency that will allow us to seek emergency reimbursement for all of the overtime and the fact that we brought in mutual aid from other parts of the state.”

Three New York storm-related deaths were reported in Erie County. Two died in separate incidents Friday night when emergency medical personnel were unable to reach their homes in time for emergency medical treatment, Poloncarz said Saturday morning. Details about the third death, confirmed by a county spokesman Saturday afternoon, were not immediately available.

“The loss of two lives in Buffalo — related to the storm — because people couldn’t get to medical help is again a crisis unfolding before your eyes and you realize that life-saving ambulances and emergency medical personnel can’t get to people during a blizzard situation,” Hochul added.

Other storm-related deaths have been reported across the country. They include:

• Colorado: Police in Colorado Springs, Colo., have reported two cold-related deaths since Thursday, with one man found near a building’s power transformer possibly seeking warmth and another camped out in an alley.

• Kansas: Three people have died in weather-related crashes, the Kansas Highway Patrol said Friday.

• Kentucky: Three people have died in the state, officials said, including one related to a car crash in Montgomery County.

Missouri: One person has died after a caravan slid off an icy road and into a frozen creek, Kansas City police said.

• Ohio: Eight people have died in weather-related crashes, including four in a Saturday morning crash on Interstate 75 when a semi-trailer truck with a tractor-trailer crossed the median and collided with an SUV and a pickup truck, authorities said.

• Tennessee: The Tennessee Department of Health on Friday confirmed one storm-related death.

• Wisconsin: The Wisconsin State Patrol on Thursday reported one fatal crash due to winter weather.

The storm system is forecast to gradually weaken as it moves toward southeastern Canada, moving slowly over the next few days and pulling arctic air from Canada down into much of the eastern part of the country.

The arctic blast being felt across the eastern two-thirds of the nation will slowly ease by Monday, but dangerous conditions will continue into Christmas Day.

Freezing temperatures combined with dangerously cold winds will create a potentially life-threatening hazard for stranded travelers, people working outside, livestock and pets, according to National Weather Service.

“In some areas, staying outdoors can result in freezing temperatures within minutes,” the weather service warned.

As cold air continues to blast the warm waters of the Great Lakes, lake effect snows and blizzards are expected to continue but slowly become less intense.

Still, strong gusty winds, initially up to 60 mph, accompanying the snow down from the Great Lakes will continue to create extremely dangerous road conditions.

By Christmas Eve into Monday, another low-pressure system coming in from the Pacific Ocean will bring the next surge of moisture to the Pacific Northwest and then to northern California, according to the weather service.




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