MISSION, Kansas (HPD) — Millions of Americans are living with freezing temperatures, blizzard conditions, power outages and holiday gathering cancellations due to a nearly unprecedented winter storm that is exposing 60% of the population. to some kind of bad weather alert.
More than 200 million people were under alert Friday, the National Weather Service reported. The winter cold map “represents one of the longest warnings in history,” the forecasters said.
The blackouts have affected 1.4 million homes and businesses, according to the PowerOutage website, which tracks reports from power utility companies. Power companies in Nashville, Memphis and the entire Tennessee Valley said they would implement blackouts Friday to conserve power as the region battles an extreme cold front.
More than 4,600 flights within, to or from the United States were canceled on Friday, according to the FlightAware tracking site.
“We have to be positive. Anger is not going to help us at all,” said Wendell Davis, who plays basketball with a team in France and was waiting at Chicago’s O’Hare airport on Friday after a series of flight cancellations. After his flight to Cincinnati was canceled on Friday afternoon, Davis considered renting a car and driving to Columbus, since train service was suspended. But he first tried to locate his luggage.
The huge storm spread from border to border. In Canada, WestJet canceled all flights on Friday at Toronto Pearson International Airport starting at 9 a.m. And in Mexico, migrants waited near the US border in unusually cold temperatures for the Supreme Court’s decision on the validity of Title 42, a measure that prevents many from seeking asylum.
Forecasters said a bomb cyclone — which occurs when air pressure drops very quickly during an intense storm — developed near the Great Lakes, bringing blizzard conditions, including high winds and snow.
Although flotillas of snowplow and salt trucks have been deployed, driving was dangerous and sometimes deadly. A Kansas City, Missouri driver died Thursday after falling into a creek. And Michigan State Police reported a number of accidents Friday, including a pileup involving nine tractor-trailers.
Activists were also rushing to get the homeless out of the cold. About 170 adults and children were keeping warm Friday at a Detroit shelter and warming center that is designed to hold 100 people.
“It’s a lot of extra people,” but you can’t turn anyone away, said Faith Fowler, executive director of Cass Community Social Services, which manages both facilities.
In Chicago, Andy Robledo planned to spend the day organizing homeless screening activities through his nonprofit organization Feeding People Through Plants. Robledo and his volunteers build tents inspired by ice fishing cabins, complete with a plywood subfloor.
“It is not a house, nor an apartment, nor a hotel room. But it’s a big step up from what they had before,” says Robledo.
The weather service is forecasting the coldest Christmas in more than two decades in Philadelphia, where classes were held online on Friday or canceled entirely.
In South Dakota, Governor Kristi Noem activated the state National Guard to transport firewood from the Black Hills Forest Service to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe after some tribe members were stuck in their homes with low fuel.
Bleed reported from Little Rock, Arkansas. Associated Press writers Dee-Ann Durbin in Detroit; Gillian Flaccus in Portland, Oregon; Zeke Miller in Washington; and Emily Wagster Pettus in Jackson, Mississippi, contributed to this report.