NATIONAL NEWS

A powerful winter storm claims at least 16 lives across the US as temperatures plunge, winds howl and power lines fall

Dec 24, 2022, 2:32 PM
Bad conditions in Logan Canyon...
Show drifts up to five feet deep and overall low visibility are blamed for closures most of Wednesday in Logan Canyon. (KSL TV)
(KSL TV)

(CNN) — More than 755,000 homes and businesses nationwide were without power Christmas Eve afternoon, thanks to an Arctic blast and winter storm that tore down power lines with destructive winds and heavy snow and dipped temperatures dangerously low — conditions killing at least 16 people.

As bone-chilling air continues to grip the US this holiday weekend, the storm still is pummeling parts of the Upper Midwest and interior Northeast with heavy snow and blizzard conditions.

Related: Follow live updates

In New York’s Buffalo area particularly, heavy snow (more than 2 feet in places) and strong winds (sometimes higher than 60 mph) at times made visibility close to zero Friday into Saturday. More than a foot more could fall Saturday, with winds gusting up to 65 mph and making temperatures feel well below zero.

In the county that contains Buffalo, about 500 motorists found themselves stranded in their vehicles Friday night into Saturday morning, and a “couple hundred” may still be trapped early Saturday afternoon, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz told CNN. That’s despite a county driving ban put in place during the storm.

Lia Belles’ 85-year-old grandmother and her father were among the stranded.

They have been stuck on New York State Route 198 in Buffalo — less than a mile from her home — since Friday afternoon. Contact with them is limited due to their phone battery, and they have been turning the heat on and off to save gas.

“There is nothing more I want other than their safety right now,” Belles told CNN Saturday, adding that her dad could walk home but he would never leave his mother alone.

“I’ve tried to walk out to them with a sled but conditions by myself were just impossible,” she said.

Belles said by Saturday afternoon they got help getting the car unstuck but there was no path for them to leave.

“It’s very nerve racking and difficult,” she said. “They’re definitely exhausted, but we’re seeing a little hope right now.”

In hardest-hit areas, many emergency crews that tried to reach the stranded became stuck themselves, Poloncarz said.

“Don’t leave your home,” Poloncarz said on CNN Saturday to anyone thinking about traveling to or within the area. “It’s much safer to be inside, even if you lost your power with it only being 45 degrees inside, than going out and dealing with minus 20 wind chills and blinding conditions.”

National Guard troops were arriving Saturday to “rescue people that are stuck in vehicles,” and to give rides to medical workers so they could relieve colleagues who’d been working at hospitals for more than a day, Poloncarz said.

Even where it wasn’t snowing and howling, temperatures and wind chills have been dangerously low across much of the country.

From the Plains and the Midwest to the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic and even in parts of the Southeast, wind chills after the sun rose Saturday morning were below zero, according to the National Weather Service.

That included:

Atlanta: 9 degrees; with minus 8 wind chill

Memphis: 10 degrees; with minus 4 wind chill

New York City: 8 degrees; with minus 8 wind chill

St. Louis: 9 degrees; with minus 12 wind chill

Washington, DC: 12 degrees; with minus 3 wind chill

At least 16 people have died since Wednesday across seven states, a result of dangerous and life-threatening conditions this week over a large swath of the country:

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

• Kentucky: Three people have died in the state, officials have said, including one involving a vehicle accident in Montgomery County.

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

• New York: Erie County has had three storm-related deaths, county officials said Saturday. Two died in separate incidents Friday night when emergency medical personnel could not get to their homes in time for medical emergencies, Poloncarz said Saturday morning. Details about the third death, confirmed by a county spokesperson Saturday afternoon, weren’t immediately available.

• Ohio: Four people have died “as a result of weather-related auto accidents,” Gov. Mike DeWine said.

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

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

National Guard troops helping rescue stranded in Buffalo area

As of 3:15 p.m ET Saturday, 755,210 homes and businesses in the US had no electricity service, according to PowerOutage.us, which means millions of people likely do not have proper heating or hot water as extremely low temperatures persist Saturday.

A power grid operator for at least 13 states in the country’s eastern half asked customers to conserve power from early Saturday to 10 a.m. on Sunday because usage was straining capacity — and warned rolling blackouts could happen if the strain becomes too much.

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.

PJM advised people to set thermostats lower than usual and postpone using major electric appliances such as stoves and dishwashers.

In a video on Twitter, a company official said the risk of rotating customer outages is “very real.”

In Tennessee, utilities intermittently interrupted power to customers for a few hours Saturday morning at the behest of the Tennesee Valley Authority — the state’s federally owned electricity provider — because the frigid weather was straining capacity.

The Nashville Electric Service told customers Saturday morning to expect “rotating, intermittent power outages” in about 10-minute increments every 90 minutes to two hours.

The TVA announced shortly before 11 a.m. CT that the interruptions were no longer needed.

During the rolling blackouts, Nashville’s mayor asked the NFL’s Tennessee Titans to postpone their scheduled noon CT Saturday home game against the Houston Texans. The NFL delayed the start for an hour, and said it was “exploring every possibility to minimize non-essential power around the stadium.”

More than 5,000 flights were canceled Friday with thousands more delayed, and more than 2,600 flights have been canceled Saturday.

What else to expect Christmas Eve

• Cold for many: Wind chills will be dangerously cold across much of the central and eastern US this weekend. “The life-threatening cold temperatures and dangerous wind chills will create a potentially life-threatening hazard for travelers that become stranded,” the National Weather Service said early Saturday.

• Record temps in the South: Atlanta and Tallahassee, Florida, were forecast to have their coldest high temperature ever recorded on December 24, according to the weather service.

• Brutal cold elsewhere: Philadelphia and Pittsburgh were expected to see their coldest day Christmas Eve ever on Saturday. Washington, DC, could see its second-coldest on Christmas Eve, the first being in 1989. New York is set to experience its coldest Christmas Eve since 1906. Chicago is expecting temperatures to rebound above zero but will still experience its coldest Christmas Eve since 1983.


The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

A man accused of kidnapping and torturing a woman in southwest Oregon knew his victim before the at...
Lucy Kafanov, Elizabeth Wolfe and Jeremy Harlan

Man accused of severely beating, kidnapping Oregon woman knew his victim, police say

A man accused of kidnapping and torturing a woman in southwest Oregon knew his victim before the attack, police tell CNN, as the week-long search for the suspect continues.
21 hours ago
Artic weather leads to canceled flights...
Lilit Marcus, CNN

More than 1,800 flights canceled Tuesday, hundreds more on Wednesday

More than 1,800 flights were canceled and many more were delayed on Tuesday as a brutal ice storm continued to hit parts of the South and central United States, bringing a second day of transport problems.
21 hours ago
The booking photo for Aaron Michael Zeman, also known as Tadashi Kura Kojima. ( Hall County Departm...
Michael Houck

Layton Amber Alert suspect charged with kidnapping, sexual exploitation of a minor

The Arizona man who is suspected of kidnapping a Layton boy has been charged with multiple felonies Tuesday. 
21 hours ago
Priscilla Presley speaks at the public memorial for Lisa Marie Presley at Graceland on January 22, ...
Andrew Dalton, Associated Press

Priscilla Presley disputes trust of late Lisa Marie Presley

Priscilla Presley has filed legal documents disputing who oversees the estate of her late daughter Lisa Marie Presley.
21 hours ago
This photo provided by the Dallas Zoo shows an emperor tamarins that lives at the zoo. Two monkeys ...
Andi Babineau and Elizabeth Wolfe

After monkeys stolen and animals enclosures cut open, Dallas Zoo releases photo of suspect

For the fourth time this month, the Dallas Zoo finds tampering with their animals and their enclosures, including one dead bird.
21 hours ago
A Qantas Boeing 747-400, registration VH-OEJ,  passes over Sydney's Eastern Suburbs as it departs S...
Gene Johnson, Associated Press

Boeing bids farewell to an icon, delivers last 747 jumbo jet

Boeing bids farewell to an icon on Tuesday: It's delivering its final 747 jumbo jet.
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t Let a Ransomware Attack Get You Down | Protect Your Workplace Today with Cyber Insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
A powerful winter storm claims at least 16 lives across the US as temperatures plunge, winds howl and power lines fall