Historic Storm Elliott has plunged the US into freezing weather in the middle of the Christmas season, making Christmas Eve bittersweet for thousands of people with flight cancellations, collapsed roads and power outages across the country. A powerful winter storm packed with heavy snow and polar winds killed at least 17 people on Saturday (12.24.2022), left 1.7 million people without power and thousands of travelers stranded by canceled flights just hours before Christmas.
Officials have confirmed at least 17 storm-related deaths in eight states. Heavy snow, hurricane-force winds and dangerously cold temperatures kept much of the country, including the typically temperate South, frozen for a third day on Saturday.
At least 200 million people in the United States, 60% of the population, are under some weather warning, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). And many others have been affected in one way or another. The last part of this body, as of 6:00pm GMT, means that 3.9 million people in the country’s Midwest, Northeast and Northwest are on alert for a snowstorm this Saturday.
The storm, a bomb cyclone from an Arctic front, is bringing freezing temperatures from Canada to Texas through Thursday. If the forecasts hold true, many cities along the East Coast and Florida could experience colder Christmases as records are set.
Thousands of flights were cancelled
According to data from the FlightAware portal, around 4,300 flights have been canceled today, leaving thousands of people in Elliott’s column scrambling to reunite with their families without Christmas Eve. These are in addition to the nearly 6,000 cancellations that have already occurred since Thursday, causing confusion and frustration at various U.S. airports. Courier companies such as FedEx or UPS have also reported delays in delivering gifts as a result of the storm.
Airports in Detroit (Michigan), Atlanta (Georgia), Minneapolis (Minnesota) and Seattle (Washington State) were the most affected by cancellations and delays. Additionally, those in Milwaukee (Wisconsin) and Buffalo (New York) are closed. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg tweeted Saturday, “The most serious disruptions are behind us as flight and airport operations gradually resume.”
US President Joe Biden appeared publicly on Thursday to warn Americans to take the storm “very seriously” and to follow the advice of officials. Fearing they would be stuck in Washington on Christmas Eve, House members rushed to vote on the fiscal year 2023 budget on Friday.
At least 12 states in the country have declared a state of emergency because of the frost, such as Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia or New York. “Freezing temperatures have caused dangerous conditions on the roads today. Stay off the roads,” New York Governor Cathy Hochul asked in her role on social media.
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