‘Epic’ winter storm sweeps across US, leaving 1 million without power



More than a million U.S. electricity customers were left in the dark on Friday as a “bomb cyclone” winter storm slammed the country, shutting down highways, grounding flights and wreaking havoc on Christmas travelers.

Heavy snowfall, howling winds, and air so cold it instantly turned boiling water to ice gripped much of the nation, including the normally temperate southern states.

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), over 200 million Americans were warned of weather alerts as chill winds dropped temperatures as low as -55 Fahrenheit (-48 degrees Celsius).

In Hamburg, New York, 39-year-old Jennifer Orlando crouched down with her husband.

“I can’t see across the street,” she told AFP. “We’re not going anywhere.”

Her power was out for four hours after a vehicle slid into a power line on the freeway, she said.

The biting cold is an immediate concern for hundreds of thousands of power customers who have been without power, according to tracker poweroutage.us.

In El Paso, Texas, desperate migrants who had crossed over from Mexico thronged to warm up at churches, schools and a civic center, Rosa Falcon, a school teacher and volunteer, told AFP.

But some still chose to stay outside in temperatures of -15 Fahrenheit, fearing attention from immigration officials, she added.

In Chicago, Burke Patten of Night Ministry, a nonprofit dedicated to helping the homeless, said, “We gave out cold-weather gear, including coats, hats, gloves, thermals, blankets and sleeping bags, and hand and foot warmers.”

ALSO READ: 70 Percent of US Under Storm Warning as Deep Freeze Hits

Major Caleb Senn, The Salvation Army’s Chicago area commander, said the organization had opened centers where people could find shelter from the fierce weather.

“Some of the people we’re seeing just became homeless this year,” he said.

“Some of these people are actually scared. This is the first time they’ve been in the elements with nowhere to go.”

However, some easily accepted the biting cold.

In Canada, stoic last-minute vacation shoppers in downtown Toronto flinched from the plummeting temperatures.

Jennifer Campbell, of Caledon, Ontario, told AFP, “I think every few years we get some big storms and we just adjust. We’re Canadian, that’s how we do it.”

– US storm: flight chaos –

Transportation departments in North and South Dakota, Oklahoma, Iowa and elsewhere reported near-zero visibility whiteouts, ice-covered roads and snowstorms, and urged residents to stay home.

At least two traffic deaths were reported in Oklahoma on Thursday. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear confirmed three in his state.

In Ohio, at least one person was killed in a 50-vehicle pile-up, according to local media, while in Michigan an accident involving nine tractor trailers disrupted traffic.

Motorists have been warned not to take to the roads – even as the nation hit what is typically the busiest travel time of the year.

“This is an epic, statewide threat,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said at a news conference.

“The streets will be like an ice rink and your tires can’t handle it.”

Around 5,000 US flights were canceled and another 7,600 delayed on Friday, many at international hubs in New York, Seattle and O’Hare in Chicago, according to flight-tracking website FlightAware.

The domino effects spread misery even among travelers arriving in balmy Los Angeles.

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Christine Lerosen told ABC 7 she couldn’t find a flight from Vancouver.

“I had to get my brother to drive me to Seattle — I had to book a flight from Seattle to Denver to fly here. My flight to Seattle was delayed, my flight to Denver was delayed and now they’ve lost my luggage,” she said.

By Friday afternoon, the storm had achieved “bomb cyclone” status after 24 hours of precipitous pressure drops.

Bomb cyclones produce heavy rain or snow. They can also cause coastal flooding and generate hurricane-force winds.

Toronto meteorologist Kelsey McEwen tweeted that waves up to eight meters were being reported in Lake Erie, while winds of up to 120 kilometers per hour were blowing in Ohio’s Fairport Harbor, the NWS tweeted.

– rapid frostbite –

Rich Maliawco, chief forecaster for the NWS in Glasgow, Montana, where wind chills dropped to -60 Fahrenheit overnight, warned of extremely dangerous weather.

“If you’re not wearing those warm layers, exposed skin can get frostbite in less than five minutes in these types of wind chills,” he said.

Conditions were cold enough to post videos of himself performing the “Boiling Water Challenge,” where boiling water is hurled into the air and instantly freezes.

“We created our own cloud at -17F (-27C) at #Missoula International Airport,” tweeted NWS Missoula, Montana.

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