In much of the United States, people experience Christmas in exceptionally cold weather. Extreme sub-zero temperatures, icy winds and heavy snowfalls have led to power outages in many places and have already claimed several lives. According to the website PowerOutage, more than 1.6 million homes were temporarily without power on Saturday, most of them on the east coast of the United States. In some parts of the country up to minus 40 degrees were measured.
On Christmas Eve, the American Weather Service wrote on Twitter that Santa Claus will face freezing temperatures, especially in the eastern two-thirds of the country. “Fortunately he comes from the North Pole and is used to this weather,” the Christmas message continued. In the southwest and on the west coast, however, he will experience slightly warmer temperatures.
For some, however, the Arctic storm “Elliott” had very serious consequences: the NBC broadcaster reported at least 23 fatalities, citing local authorities. An 82-year-old woman was found dead in front of an assisted living facility in Michigan on Friday morning. A snowplow driver clearing the facility’s parking lot spotted the woman in the snow, NBC reported, citing local police. She later died in hospital.
However, the majority of weather-related deaths were due to traffic accidents on mirror-smooth or snow-covered roads. Other broadcasters also reported double-digit death tolls.
In the hard-hit state of New York, Governor Kathy Hochul sent the National Guard to Erie County and the capital, Buffalo. According to the authorities, the emergency services there practically collapsed in the face of the extreme snowstorm. “There are probably still hundreds of people stuck in their vehicles,” Erie County Council’s Mark Poloncarz said Saturday. According to him, the National Guard was “sent straight to the city of Buffalo” to help people in life-threatening situations.
Millions of travelers were stranded at airports including Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Detroit and New York en route to their families. According to the Flightaware website, the winter storm had already led to the cancellation of 2,300 US flights on Saturday and the delay of another 5,300 flights.
However, US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg tweeted on Saturday that “the most extreme disruptions are behind us as airline and airport operations begin to recover.”
Traveling can be dangerous
The US weather service called on travelers to exercise extreme caution on the Christmas weekend and warned of so-called whiteout conditions, i.e. severely restricted visibility and orientation due to the snow. Traveling under these conditions is “extremely dangerous and at times impossible,” it said. There was also a warning about the low temperatures. It was said that even a few minutes in the cold could lead to frostbite.
US media, citing weather experts, saw the conditions for a so-called “bomb cyclone” fulfilled in some places: This is a weather phenomenon in which the air pressure drops extremely within a short period of time and which increases the force of the storm.