Major US winter storm leaves 23 dead, 700k without power

A Nashville resident walks to work on Dec 23, 2022, after winter storm Elliot moved through the Middle Tennessee region through the night leaving behind freezing rain, snow and below freezing temperatures, in Nashville, Tennessee. (SETH HERALD / AFP)

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK/HOUSTON – A major winter storm has taken at least 23 lives across the United States as of Saturday evening, according to NBC News.

The media outlet reported that deaths had occurred in the states of Oklahoma, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Kansas, Nebraska, Ohio, New York, Colorado, and Michigan.

A "historic" blizzard has caused "impossible travel conditions in the Buffalo area of the state of New York and beyond, according to Governor Kathy Hochul's office

Among them were four fatalities caused by a 46-vehicle pileup on the Ohio Turnpike near Sandusky, Ohio, on Friday afternoon.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine tweeted Saturday that state troops "have responded to terrible crashes on our roadways this weekend."

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"If you have to be out, drive slowly, buckle up, and keep a safe stopping distance," DeWine warned. "We want you to get to your destination safely."

US weather forecasters said on Saturday that the winter storm continues to impact the Great Lakes with gusty winds, frigid temperatures and heavy snow, even with its center now well to the north over eastern Canada.

A "historic" blizzard has caused "impossible travel conditions in the Buffalo area of the state of New York and beyond, according to Governor Kathy Hochul's office.

The North County, Finger Lakes, and Central New York regions all experienced peak wind gusts of more than 60 miles (96 km) per hour during the event.

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In Western New York, peak wind gusts reached 79 miles (127 km) per hour. The Buffalo and Watertown areas are expected to see snow totals of 3 to 5 feet (91 to 152 cm) by Monday.

The lights are still out for hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses in the United States as Christmas Eve falls. Reuters reported that 700,000 residents had no electricity.

More than 3,300 flights within, into, or out of the United States have been canceled on Saturday, with around 7,500 delayed, according to a flight tracking website.

In Texas, the US Energy Department on Saturday declared a power emergency amid the Arctic winter blast that was feared to cause a shortage of electricity in the state.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state grid operator which serves 90 percent of electric customers in Texas, requested the order on Friday, allowing it to exceed certain air pollution limits to boost generation amid record power demand in the state.

The Energy Department said in the order that units that produce about 11,000 megawatts of coal and gas-fired power, 4,000 megawatts of wind and 1,700 megawatts of solar power were down or scaled back on Friday due to the winter storm.

"While the vast majority of generating units in the ERCOT region continue to operate without any problem, a small number of units have experienced operating difficulties due to cold weather or gas curtailments," said the order.

Local media reported some power production went offline as power demand reached an unexpected high across Texas on Friday, citing ERCOT officials, who admitted that power demand had been underestimated in the forecast.

However, ERCOT said on Saturday afternoon that the state's power grid has withstood freezing temperatures through much of the state, expecting the power supply to keep up with demand.

According to the Energy Department, power demand in Texas reached an all-time winter peak of over 74,000 megawatts on Friday morning.

Earlier this week, AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jon Porter called the Arctic blast the "biggest test" of the state power grid since the February 2021 winter storm, which killed more than 200 Texans and pushed the state grid to the brink of total failure.

AccuWeather estimates that Texas suffered $130 billion in economic damage due to the 2021 winter storm that led to widespread blackouts across the state. 

With Agencies inputs