At least 17 people were killed, more than 700,000 homes had no power and thousands of airline passengers were stranded across the country Saturday as a powerful winter storm created the nightmare before Christmas.
Record-breaking cold gripped the US along with white-out conditions in some areas and ferocious winds in others — while a “bomb cyclone” hit portions of the nation.
A “bomb cyclone” is created when the atmospheric pressure drops quickly in a strong storm.
Pittsburgh, Charleston, S.C., and Washington, DC, were all expected to hit record lows for Christmas Eve.
Fargo, ND., was forecast to be the coldest spot in the country on Christmas.
The death toll from the massive storm — which stretched from the Great Lakes to the Mexican border — included one man in the Big Apple, and three in upstate Erie County, where hard-hit Buffalo was expected to get up to 4 feet of snow by Monday.
“It is life-threatening what is going on as we speak in Buffalo,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said Saturday, noting almost every fire truck in that city was stuck in the snow.
In Ohio, four motorists were killed, and numerous others injured, in a 50-vehicle pileup during a blizzard near Toledo. In neighboring Kentucky, three more weather-related fatalities were confirmed — two from car accidents and one a homeless person who died of exposure.
An 82-year-old woman in Lansing, Mich., died after being found Friday morning curled up in the snow outside of her assisted living community, local police reported.
The massive amount of snow raised concerns about flooding in multiple states, including North Dakota and Nevada.
Power grids across the country were strained, with the Tennessee Valley Authority, which supplies 10 million people in parts of seven states, saying on Friday it supplied more energy than ever in its 89-year history.
Residents in 13 states served by Pennsylvania-based PJM Interconnection were asked to refrain from unnecessary use of electricity with rolling blackouts a possibility.
Airlines were walloped with 2,800 US flights canceled and another 6,600 delayed Saturday, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware.
One man, stuck at John F. Kennedy Airport Saturday on his way from Detroit to Istanbul, called it “the worst traveling experience of my life.”
“We haven’t gotten hotel accommodations, nothing,” said Amal Hammoud, 27. “We got here only to miss our other flight, even though we were three hours early.”
A delayed United Airlines flight to Newark landed in the early morning of Christmas Eve, with passengers waiting at least another hour on the tarmac as the plane’s overhead compartment began leaking.
At Kennedy Airport Saturday, frustrated traveler Amy Sarr, 37, who works in media and events, was trying to get home to see her family in Senegal. She said she flew to New York from Washington, DC, Friday and ran to her connecting flight to Senegal only to sit on the plane for four hours before learning it could not take off.
“Of course we were hungry, and needed to eat … and someone fainted. Like, literally,” she said.
After sleeping at the airport, she was hoping to get on another flight Saturday night. “I’m already missing half of Christmas, which is sad. I just miss being around the kids and being around my parents and just the warmth of Christmas,” she said.
A photographer struggling to get to Chicago from Detroit tweeted his frustrations.
“So @Delta y’all literally delayed our flight for four hours just to cancel it. And this is my second flight being cancelled (sic) getting to Chicago,” photographer Jeremiah Hunnus posted after midnight on Christmas Eve, sharing a video of roughly a dozen bewildered fellow passengers. “This is not acceptable…. And i am not ok.”
Some tried to make the best of it.
“Our flight out of Portland tomorrow got cancelled,” bemoaned Rob Glover, a political science professor at the University of Maine, sharing a picture of a plate of chili cheese fries. “So, instead of being whisked away to the Caribbean, we’re drowning our sorrows in cheese and gravy.”
There was no relief for those who did manage to make it south with chilly temperatures in Florida meaning iguanas were in danger of “freezing” and falling from trees.
In Texas, the Houston Humane Society rescued 138 frozen bats from the Waugh Street Bridge after they froze in place Thursday.
“For Christmas to be this cold, in some areas it’s historic, especially in the South,” said FOX forecast center meteorologist Stephen McCloud. “It doesn’t get this cold this early.”
He said the main storm system was slowly moving farther north in Canada, which will continue to bring snow to the Great Lakes region through Tuesday.
Upstate New York, including Buffalo, was expected to see another foot to two feet of snow, while Michigan is likely to get anywhere between 3 up to 8 inches.
with Post wires