Devastating US storm kills 18 so far

Carolyn Thompson and Jake Bleiberg, The Associated Press

BUFFALO, NY — A freezing winter storm has killed at least 18 people as it swept across the United States, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses and leaving millions jittery about the possibility power outages on Christmas Eve.

The storm ripped through Buffalo, New York, with hurricane-force winds bringing conditions that brought visibility to nil. Emergency response was paralyzed and the city’s international airport was closed.

Across the United States, authorities attributed the deaths to exposure to cold weather, car crashes, a falling tree branch and other effects of the storm.

At least three people have died in the Buffalo area, including two who needed medical help at their homes. They could not be saved as emergency crews were unable to reach them in time to treat their health issues in the historic blizzard conditions.

Erie County, NY Superintendent Mark Poloncarz said the blizzard could be « the worst storm in his community’s history. »

Heavy snow, freezing temperatures and power outages had Buffalo residents rushing out of their homes to any heated location on Saturday. New York Governor Kathy Hochul said Buffalo Niagara International Airport would be closed until Monday morning and nearly all of the city’s fire trucks were stuck in snow.

« No matter how many emergency vehicles we have, they can’t get through the conditions as we speak, » she said.

Blinding blizzards, freezing rain and freezing cold also knocked out power in places from Maine to Seattle, while a major electric grid operator warned the 65 million people it serves in the It is in the United States that power cuts might be necessary.

Pennsylvania-based PJM Interconnection said power plants were struggling to operate in freezing weather and asked residents in 13 states to conserve power until at least Christmas morning.

The Tennessee Valley Authority, which provides power to 10 million people in the state and parts of six other states, ordered local power companies to implement planned outages, but halted measurement Saturday afternoon.

Across the six New England states, more than 273,000 customers were left without power on Saturday, with Maine the hardest hit. Some utilities have said it could take days for power to be restored.

In North Carolina, 169,000 customers were without power in the afternoon, while the peak reached 485,000 customers. Utility officials warned that power cuts would continue for « the next few days ».

According to meteorologists, 71 centimeters of snow accumulated Saturday in Buffalo. Last month, areas just south of the city saw a record 1.8 meters of snowfall in a single storm.

The storm was nearly unprecedented in its magnitude, stretching from the Great Lakes near Canada to the Rio Grande along the border with Mexico. About 60% of the U.S. population faced some kind of winter weather advisory or warning, and temperatures dropped significantly below normal from east of the Rocky Mountains to Appalachia, the National Weather Service said. .

With millions of Americans traveling ahead of Christmas, more than 2,360 flights within, to or from the United States were canceled on Saturday, according to tracking site FlightAware.


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