More than 1.6 million homes and businesses across the country were without power on Christmas Eve as an arctic storm and winter storm knocked out power lines, damaging winds and snow and dangerously low temperatures – killing at least 15 people.
As biting air continues to hang over the U.S. this holiday weekend, the relentless storm is hitting parts of the Midwest and East with heavy snow, blizzards and even flooding along the Northeast Coast. There is no sign of slack in sight until Christmas is over.
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At least 15 people have died in four states since Wednesday, the result of dangerous and life-threatening conditions across swaths of the country this week.
Three people have died in weather-related crashes in Kansas, the Kansas Highway Patrol told CNN on Friday.
In Kansas City, Missouri, a person died after his vehicle slid off an icy road and into a frozen creek, emergency responders with the Kansas City Police Department said.
Four people died in a car crash in Ohio and others were injured, the governor said. McDwin said.
The Tennessee Department of Health confirmed one death related to the storm on Friday. The Wisconsin State Patrol on Thursday reported a fatal crash caused by winter weather.
Two people died in separate incidents in Erie County, N.Y., on Friday night when first responders were unable to get home in time for a medical emergency, County Executive Mark Poloncarz said at a news conference Saturday morning. .
Kentucky reported three deaths from the storm: two in car crashes and one homeless in Governor Louisville. Andy Beshear said. Police said the man’s body was found outside with no obvious signs of trauma – an autopsy is needed to determine the cause of death.
For days, forecasters and officials have been sounding the alarm about the potential severity of the storm, while imploring drivers to stay off icy, snow-covered roads and imploring fellow travelers to alter their vacation plans to ensure optimal safety.
“Remember, your loved ones are more concerned about whether you survive and next Christmas than whether you get through this Christmas,” Beshear told CNN on Friday.
“People need to stay off the road. … Being together is more important than ever, but staying safe is more important than that,” Beshear added.
The storm has sounded an ominous warning as blizzard conditions continue to roll in from the Great Lakes and the interior Northeast, bringing a double threat of snow and high winds.
Hundreds of drivers were stranded and in need of rescue this week in states including New York, South Dakota and Minnesota. Some states have closed major highways to discourage drivers from driving. Additionally, more than 5,000 flights were canceled and more than 10,000 delayed on Friday.
To make matters worse, snowy conditions are possible even if snowfall stops or slows down, as winds are expected to approach or exceed 60 mph, causing damage and more power outages.
“If it does lose power, it’s going to be cold and dangerous,” said New York Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jackie Bray, adding that people should seek shelter in the warmth that some counties offer. “Please don’t assume you can go overnight without the heat. You probably can’t.”
According to PowerOutage.us, as of 7:50 a.m. ET, more than 1.6 million homes and businesses were without power, meaning millions of residents were without power. Due to the continued extreme cold on Saturday, there may not be proper heating or hot water.
In pictures: Winter storms affecting the US
This Christmas Eve, you can also look forward to the following:
• Many people are about to catch a cold: More than 175 million people are under wind chill warnings for much of the central and eastern United States. “Life-threatening low temperatures and dangerous wind chills are potentially life-threatening for stranded travelers,” the National Weather Service said.
• Record-breaking temperatures in the South: Atlanta and Tallahassee, Florida, are expected to see their coldest high temperatures on record on Dec. 24, according to the Weather Service.
• Severe cold elsewhere: Philadelphia and Pittsburgh will also have their coldest Christmas Eve on record on Saturday. Washington, D.C. could have its second coldest night on Christmas Eve, the first being in 1989. New York will experience its coldest Christmas Eve since 1906. Chicago expects temperatures to climb back above zero, but will still experience its coldest Christmas Eve since 1983.
• Flood threat persists: With heavy rain falling on melting snow, both coastal and inland flood risks await the Northeast. Moderate to isolated major coastal flooding is possible due to strong onshore winds.