More than 200 million Americans hit by storm on Christmas Eve: 3 people dead in Kentucky
Sylvie Claire / December 24, 2022
As of Friday morning, more than 240 million people were affected by warnings or calls for caution in the United States, the U.S. Weather Service (NWS) wrote. That's more than 70 percent of the population.
In many states, conditions were very dangerous to travel, warned authorities. However, millions of Americans flooded on the roads and in airports for the holidays.
In New York State, a travel ban was even issued in Erie County. "We're staying home (...) I can't see across the street," Jennifer Orlando, affected by the ban in Hamburg, where it was about -8ºC Friday morning, told AFP.
Because of a vehicle crashing into a power line, she was without power for about four hours, she said.
More than 1 million Americans were without power as of midday Friday, including in North and South Carolina, Connecticut and Texas, according to the trade site Poweroutage.us.
"Please take this storm extremely seriously," President Joe Biden urged Thursday. "I encourage everyone ... to listen to the warnings at the local level," he added. "This is serious.
As of midday Friday, the specialized website Flightaware counted more than 4,000 cancelled flights in the United States, the most affected airports being those of Seattle (northwest), New York, Chicago (north) and Detroit.
By Thursday, about 10% of flights had been canceled, said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg Friday morning on MSNBC. "Several of the largest air hubs are affected," he added.
In total, about 112 million people are expected to travel at least 50 miles between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA).
Several states have declared a state of emergency, including New York, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Georgia and North Carolina.
People need to stay home, stay off the roads," Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear urged Friday morning on CNN, "Your family wants you home for Christmas, but more importantly they want you alive."
Because of the snow and high winds, "blizzard conditions can develop very quickly," he stressed, noting that the National Guard had been deployed to the state.
He confirmed that three people had died on Kentucky roads. In Oklahoma, at least two people died on the road, according to the state's emergency management agency.
Significant snowfall was observed in the north of the country, especially in the Great Lakes region.
But the phenomenon extended from the Canadian border in the north to the Mexican border in the south, and from the Pacific coast in the northwest to the Atlantic coast in the east, explained the American meteorologists.
This low-pressure system is caused by a powerful conflict between two air masses: one very cold from the Arctic and the other tropical from the Gulf of Mexico.
What makes the current situation extraordinary is that this time the atmospheric pressure has dropped very quickly, in less than 24 hours.
In New York, while the temperature was still around 10ºC on Friday morning, it was expected to drop to -10ºC in the evening.
In Chicago, it was -20ºC on Friday morning, and temperatures were negative as far as the Texas coast.
Canada was also preparing for unseasonably low temperatures. On Friday, extreme cold, winter storm and even blizzard warnings were issued for a large majority of the Canadian territory, according to Environment Canada.
In Alberta (west) and Saskatchewan (central Canada), the observed temperature was between -40 and -50 degrees.