Millions of Americans face below-zero temperatures as weekend storms bring more Arctic air and snow
Jan 14, 2024, 8:56 AM | Updated: 12:38 pm
Subfreezing temperatures across much of the U.S. left millions of Americans facing potentially dangerous cold Sunday as Arctic storms threatened near-blizzard conditions in the Northeast and several inches of snow in parts of the South.
The National Weather Service warned that windy, subfreezing conditions in Montana and the Dakotas could push wind chills as low as minus 70 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 56 Celsius).
An estimated 95 million people were under weather warnings or advisories for wind chills below zero F (minus 17 Celsius), according to the weather service. Forecasters said the severe cold was expected to push as far south as northern Texas.
Juan Villegas wore layers of clothing beneath his heavy coat Sunday as he and roughly a dozen subcontractors with shovels cleared snow in downtown Des Moines, Iowa, where snow covered park benches and partially buried fire hydrants the day before the state’s presidential caucuses.
Working in temperatures of minus 15 degrees F (minus 26 degrees C), Villegas said the best way to feel warm was to “just keep moving.”
“If you stay doing nothing, it’s when you really feel the cold,” Villegas said.
Even parts of northern Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia could see snow. In Shreveport, Louisiana, Mary Trammel was among residents who stocked up on bottled water, food and fuel for generators ahead of subfreezing weather forecast to bring up an inch (2.5 centimeters) of snow and leave roads coated in ice.
“It’s cold out here,” said Tramel, who told KSLA-TV she bought bread and ingredients for enough soup to last days. “I can get what I need and make sure the house is stored good.”
Officials warned people to stay off the roads in Buffalo, New York, where snowfall of 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 centimeters) was forecast. The storm forced the postponement of the Buffalo Bills-Pittsburgh Steelers NFL playoff game from Sunday to Monday.
Workers with shovels and trucks worked Sunday to clear snow from the field at Buffalo’s Highmark Stadium. In a post on X, formerly Twitter, the Bills implored fans eager to lend a hand to hold off and await word from the team on when it would be safe to travel.
“Looks like a pretty good day to not have a football game,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Buffalo native, posted on X with a video clip of whiteout conditions in the western New York city.
At least one Bills player was out in the bad weather Sunday putting his newfound free time to good use. Offensive tackle Ryan Van Demark shared a video on Instagram showing fellow lineman Alec Anderson helping a motorist struggling with icy road conditions.
“Good Samaritan, Alec, helping the people,” Van Demark narrates on the brief clip posted Sunday morning.
Wind gusts as high as 50 mph (80 kph) were also possible, said Zack Taylor, a National Weather Service meteorologist in College Park, Maryland. “They’re expected to see both the intense snowfall, but also the extreme wind,” Taylor said. “That’s why they’re expecting to see near-blizzard conditions at times.”
Airports across the country were impacted. More than half of flights into and out of Buffalo Niagara International Airport were canceled. Scores of flights were also canceled or delayed at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Denver International Airport and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
Forecasters also warned Sunday that rapid bursts of heavy snow and wind could cause drastic and sudden drops in visibility in eastern Pennsylvania and parts of northern New Jersey and Delaware. The weather service warned motorists such squalls could bring “near whiteout conditions and a quick one-half inch of snow in just 10 to 15 minutes.”
Another Arctic storm that’s dumped heavy snowfall in the Rockies was forecast to push further south, potentially bringing 4 inches to 6 inches (10 to 15 centimeters) of snow to portions of Arkansas, northern Mississippi and west Tennessee.
Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders declared a state of emergency ahead of the severe weather to give utility trucks and trucks hauling essential supplies greater flexibility to respond.
Officials in Mississippi’s capital city of Jackson were preparing for days of freezing weather after cold snaps in 2021 and 2022 caused pipes to burst and water pressure to drop across the city of 150,000.
“We feel as confident as we can that we’re prepared for whatever comes our way,” Ted Henifin, Jackson’s interim manager of Jackson’s long-troubled water system, told WAPT-TV. He said 14 crews were on standby to respond to any broken pipes.
The wild weather didn’t just bring snow and ice. Record high tides that flooded some homes in Maine and New Hampshire on Saturday also swept three historic fishing shacks into the sea from the spot where they had stood in South Portland, Maines, for more than 130 years.
“History is just being washed away,” Michelle Erskine said Sunday, a day after she captured video footage of the last two wooden shacks sliding into the ocean.
More than 150,000 homes and businesses in Oregon were without electricity Sunday following heavy snow and ice storms, according to poweroutage.us. Widespread outages affecting tens of thousands were also reported in Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
The harsh weather in Oregon played a role in three deaths, according to authorities. Weather-related deaths were reported earlier in California, Idaho, Illinois and Wisconsin.
Bynum reported from Savannah, Georgia. Associated Press journalists Nathan Ellgren in Des Moines, Iowa; Philip Marcelo in Long Island, New York; Nick Perry in Meredith, New Hampshire; and Julie Walker in New York contributed to this story.