Millions of people were on high alert on Sunday amid a deadly winter storm that killed at least 46 people, caused travel chaos across the US and posed a “potentially life-threatening danger” for people traveling on Christmas Day.
“The life-threatening cold temperatures combined with dangerous wind chills pose a potentially life-threatening threat to stranded travelers, people working outdoors, livestock, and pets,” the National Weather Service said in a bulletin.
The service said anyone who needs to be outside should dress in layers, cover as much skin as possible, and pack winter safety gear into their vehicles.
“In some areas, being outdoors can cause frostbite in minutes,” the service added.
The storm was huge and extended from the Great Lakes near Canada to the Rio Grande along the Mexican border.
According to a count from CNNBreakingNews.net, at least 46 people died on Sunday evening. The deaths were recorded in 12 states: Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Wisconsin.
According to tracking website FlightAward, more than 3,300 domestic and international flights were canceled on Sunday afternoon, with more than 11,000 flights delayed.
The storm was particularly devastating in the Buffalo, New York area, where 16 people died after a freezing snowstorm hit the area.
“This will go down in history as the most devastating storm in Buffalo’s long, historic history, in the history of many battles, many severe storms,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul said Sunday.
Dazzling blizzards, freezing rain, and freezing cold also cut power out in places from Maine to Seattle, leaving hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses without power and millions of people nervous about potential power outages.
The start of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans game in Nashville was delayed by an hour due to a planned power outage.
Power was restored nationwide — but as of Sunday afternoon, more than 60,000 customers across the country were without power, including nearly 34,000 customers in Maine, according to the website Poweroutage.us.
National Grid, which serves customers in New York and Massachusetts, asked its customers in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island on Saturday to reduce natural gas usage by Sunday afternoon.
Thousands of flights were also canceled as people tried to get home for Christmas. At least 1,200 flights were canceled across the country on Sunday, leaving last-minute holiday travelers stranded.
According to the Environmental Defense Fund, an environmental advocacy group, the increasing snowfall is partly due to climate change, as “a warmer planet evaporates more water into the atmosphere.”
“This extra moisture means more rainfall in the form of heavy snowfall or downpours,” it says on their website.
“In the warmer months, this can lead to record-breaking floods. But in winter — when our part of the world is turned away from the sun — temperatures drop and instead of downpours, we can experience massive winter storms,” it says.
Tausende Flüge wurden vor Weihnachten storniert und waren Stunden verspätet
In the meantime, the National Weather Service said that conditions are “expected to slowly improve as the system weakens.” For Sunday, however, it was said that stormy winds would “continue to infiltrate cold Canadian air into the eastern two-thirds of the country.”
It stated that “heavy lake-effect snowfall, strong winds and limited visibility” would continue off the Great Lakes and that “bitter conditions” would continue to prevail in large parts of the country.