Winter Storm Slams US on Christmas Eve, Leaves at Least 17 Dead

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
December 24, 2022Weather
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Winter Storm Slams US on Christmas Eve, Leaves at Least 17 Dead
A man tries to remove snow from the sidewalk in downtown Detroit in Detroit, Mich., on Dec. 23, 2022. (Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)

Harsh winter weather derailed plans across the United States on Christmas Eve, with subzero temperatures, high winds, and heavy snow in multiple parts of the country.

In Buffalo, New York, and surrounding areas, a blizzard dropped snow that totaled more than two feet. As temperatures approached zero and windy conditions contributed to the visibility problems, hundreds of people were left stranded in their vehicles, including people who tried driving late Friday despite a driving ban in place for the entire county, Erie County officials said. Emergency response vehicles, meanwhile, were stuck, hampering rescue efforts.

“In the worst affected areas, there is no emergency service available,” Mark Poloncarz, executive of Erie County, which includes Buffalo, said during a Saturday morning briefing. “There is no guarantee that, in a life-threatening emergency situation, that they’re going to be able to respond immediately.”

With more snow expected to fall, officials urged people to shelter inside their abode and to refrain from calling 911 unless a true emergency exists.

“Please stay off the roads. Even if it looks like your roads are fine, do not go out on the roads,” Poloncarz said.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, who sent National Guard personnel to the region, described the snowstorm as “one of the worst in history.”

Two people died inside their homes when emergency responders could not reach them in Erie County. At least 15 others were dead across the rest of the country, mostly from weather-related car accidents.

The death toll included four people in Ohio, three people in Kansas, three people in Kentucky, one person in Colorado, one person in Missouri, one person in Tennessee, one person in Wisconsin, and one person in Vermont. A massive pileup involving some 50 vehicles on the Ohio Turnpike led to the four deaths there.

“The road conditions continue to be very dangerous across the state, with white outs and extremely cold temperatures continuing. Please continue to remain home if at all possible and be vigilant with these extremely dangerous road conditions,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said in a statement.

A Kansas City, Missouri, driver was killed Thursday after skidding into a creek, and three others died Wednesday in separate crashes on icy northern Kansas roads.

A woman in Vermont died in a hospital Friday after a tree broke in the high winds and fell on her house. Police in Colorado Springs said they found the dead body of a person who appeared to be homeless as subzero temperatures and snow descended upon the region.

In Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear warned people Saturday to avoid a stretch of Interstate 71 after a series of accidents.

“If you can avoid it, please do. If you can avoid travel, do that too,” he said during a briefing.

The storm was nearly unprecedented in its scope, stretching from the Great Lakes near Canada to the Rio Grande along the border with Mexico. About 60 percent of the U.S. population faced some sort of winter weather advisory or warning, and temperatures plummeted drastically below normal from east of the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachians, the National Weather Service said.

That included freezing temperatures in southern states like Florida. Freeze warnings were in place Saturday as far south as Tampa in Florida and Carrizo Springs in Texas.

NTD Photo
Icicles cling to strawberry plants at a field in Plant City, Fla., on Dec. 24, 2022. (Chris O’Meara/AP Photo)
NTD Photo
Kansas City fire department rescue workers work to recover a minivan that went into Brush Creek in Kansas City, Mo., on Dec. 22, 2022. Police say the driver lost control of the minivan on an icy street and the vehicle went down an embankment and overturned before submerging in Brush Creek. The driver was pulled from the creek but died later at a hospital. (Nick Wagner/The Kansas City Star via AP)

The frigid temperatures and gusty winds were expected to produce “dangerously cold wind chills across much of the central and eastern U.S. this holiday weekend,” the weather service said, adding that the conditions “will create a potentially life-threatening hazard for travelers that become stranded.”

Forecasters said a bomb cyclone—when atmospheric pressure drops very quickly in a strong storm—had developed near the Great Lakes, stirring up blizzard conditions, including heavy winds and snow.

Beshear and other officials said the extremely cold temperatures were straining power grids, forcing some providers to implement temporary outages to relieve the strain.

He urged people to turn their thermostats “to the lower comfortable setting” and to flip off all lights that weren’t being used.

As of Saturday morning, more than 1.6 million households were without power due to the storm, according to PowerOutage.us. Most of the outages were in the South and New England.

Thousands of flights into, out of, or within the United States were canceled Saturday, with more than 4,300 others delayed, FlightAware said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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