An explosion in the North Pole shatters US records, and cuts off power to millions
An explosion in the Arctic hit much of the United States on Saturday, knocking out power to 1.7 million homes and businesses across the country and leaving millions worried about more outages. At the same time, it led to flight cancellations, car wrecks, and crippling police and fire departments as lower temperatures were expected to bring the coldest Christmas night on record to several cities from Pennsylvania to Georgia.
Saturday temperatures are expected to top out at minus 13 C (7 F) in Pittsburgh, surpassing the previous Christmas Eve high of -10 C set in 1983, according to the Meteorological Service. National (NWS). .
Similarly, the two Georgia and South Carolina cities – Athens and Charleston – were expected to have the coldest temperatures on Christmas Eve during the day. At the same time, Washington, D.C., was expected to experience its coldest December 24 since 1989.
A bout of Christmas temperature records has been forecast as a deep freeze in the United States bled by dangerous wind chills continued to cover most of the eastern two-thirds of the country into the weekend.
The freeze has already led to fatal auto crashes across the country, with CNN reporting at least 14 deaths in weather-related crashes.
The arctic cold combined with a “bomb hurricane” of heavy snow and gale force winds that lashed the Great Lakes region Friday into the valleys of the upper Mississippi and Ohio, is wreaking havoc on power systems, roads and commercial air traffic.
The severe winter weather killed at least five people on Friday.
Two motorists were killed and several others injured in a 50-vehicle pileup that closed the Ohio Turnpike in both directions during a snowstorm near Toledo, forcing stranded motorists to take a bus to prevent them from freezing in their vehicles, officials said.
Three more weather-related deaths have been confirmed in neighboring Kentucky — two from car accidents and one from a homeless person who died from exposure.
Freezing rain and ice from a separate storm in the Pacific Northwest made travel treacherous Friday.
From border to border
According to the Canadian Weather Service on the Mexican border and coast to coast, about 240 million people were subject to winter weather warnings and alerts on Friday.
The NWS said its map of current or imminent meteorological hazards “depicts one of the largest degrees of winter weather alerts and warnings ever recorded.”
With power systems across the country strained by increased demand from heat and storm damage to transmission lines, as many as 1.8 million American homes and businesses were left without power as of early Saturday morning, according to tracking website Poweroutage.us.
The disruptions have upended millions of Americans’ daily routines and vacation plans during one of the busiest travel periods of the year.
The American Automobile Association estimated that 112.7 million people planned to venture within 80 kilometers (50 miles) of their homes between Friday and January 2nd. But inclement weather approaching the weekend likely ended up keeping many of them home.
Nearly 2,000 US flights were canceled on Saturday, with a total delay of more than 4,000, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware. The flight-tracking agency said more than 5,000 flights were canceled on Friday.
The city of Buffalo and the surrounding county on the edge of Lake Erie in western New York have imposed a driving ban, and all three Buffalo-area border bridges have been closed to traffic from Canada due to the weather.
Severe weather has prompted authorities across the country to open warming stations in libraries and police stations as they scramble to expand temporary shelter for the homeless. The challenge has been exacerbated by the influx of thousands of migrants across the southern border of the United States in recent weeks.
Bitter cold intensified by gusty winds stretching across the deep south to the US-Mexico border brought wind chill factors down to -18 to minus 13C in El Paso, Texas. Exposure to such conditions can lead to frostbite in a matter of minutes.