Deadly winter storm will bring ‘life-threatening’ cold on Christmas Day, forecasters warn

The deadly winter storm that has killed at least 28 people and caused travel chaos across the United States will pose a “potentially life-threatening hazard” for those traveling or working outside on Christmas Day, forecasters warned Sunday.

“In some areas, being outdoors can lead to frostbite in minutes,” the National Weather Service said in a bulletin.

“If you must travel or be out in the elements, prepare for extreme cold by dressing in layers, covering as many exposed areas of skin as possible and packing winter safety kits in your vehicles,” it added.

Stretching from the Great Lakes near Canada to the Rio Grande along the Mexican border, the storm swept across the United States in recent days, leaving at least 28 people dead, according to an NBC News report. Deaths were recorded in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and New York, among others.

Four people died Saturday in a three-vehicle crash on an Ohio highway, and at least three people died in the Buffalo area, including two who suffered medical emergencies in their homes and could not be rescued because emergency crews were unable to reach them in the middle in historic blizzard conditions.

Forecasters said 28 inches of snow had accumulated in the city as of Saturday. Last month, areas just south of the city saw a record six feet of snow from a single storm.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said Friday that nearly every fire truck in the city was stranded in the snow, as she asked residents to “bundle up, stay indoors and be safe this weekend.”

The city’s international airport was also shut down.

Blinding blizzards, freezing rain and freezing cold also knocked out power in places from Maine to Seattle, leaving hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses without power and millions of people at risk of power outages.

The start of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans game in Nashville was delayed an hour by a scheduled power outage.

Power was restored, but by early Christmas Day, more than 250,000 homes remained without power, including nearly 100,000 across Maine, according to the website Poweroutage.us.

National Grid, which serves customers in New York and Massachusetts, asked its customers Saturday in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island to reduce their use of natural gas until Sunday afternoon.

Thousands of flights were also canceled as people tried to get home for Christmas. On Sunday, at least 1,200 flights were canceled across the country, stranding holidaymakers at the last minute.

Increasing snowfall can be attributed in part to climate change, according to the Environmental Defense Fund, as “a warmer planet evaporates more water into the atmosphere.”

“This added moisture means more precipitation in the form of heavy snowfall or downpours,” the website says.

“In warmer months this can lead to record floods. But during the winter – when our part of the world is tilted away from the sun – the temperature drops, and instead of downpours we can get massive winter storms, it says.

Meanwhile, the NWS said conditions were “expected to slowly improve as the system weakens.” But for Sunday, it said gusty winds would “continue to filter in cold Canadian air into the eastern two-thirds of the nation.”

It said “heavy lake-effect snow, strong winds and reduced visibility” would continue down towards the Great Lakes and “bitter conditions” would remain across much of the country.

“Lake effect snow with local blizzard conditions may linger until Christmas Day,” it added.

Associated Press contributed.

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