For many Americans, the Christmas weekend was turned upside down by a violent winter storm accompanied by extreme temperatures, which caused massive power cuts and already caused the death of more than a dozen people.
More than 1.7 million homes were without power Saturday morning, according to the Poweroutage.us site, particularly in North Carolina, Tennessee and Maine, where temperatures were largely below freezing.
Since Wednesday evening, the center and the east of the United States have been hit by this storm of rare intensity, whose polar winds have also caused heavy snowfall, particularly in the Great Lakes region.
More than 1,900 flights canceled on Saturday morning
Transport was severely disrupted, just as tens of millions of Americans were looking to travel to join their families for the holiday season.
More than 5,500 flights were canceled on Friday, and again more than 1,900 on Saturday morning, particularly at Detroit and Minneapolis airports, according to the specialized site flightaware.
Many travelers thus found themselves hoping for a Christmas miracle, in the form of a last-minute seat on a plane that would allow them to arrive in time for the celebrations.
Zack Cuyler, 35, will be forced to spend New Year's Eve with friends in New York, after two cancellations of his flight to Houston this week, where he was to reunite with his family.
Even if he said he was “quite overwhelmed” by these postponements, he should however be able to join his loved ones in the middle of the day on Sunday, Christmas Day.
"What I'm grateful for," he told AFP.
“Hundreds” of people blocked
In many states, the roads have become impassable or very dangerous, causing sometimes fatal accidents.
In Ohio, four people have died in storm-related crashes, Gov. Mike DeWine said.
In total, authorities have confirmed at least 13 deaths, across six states.
"In the most affected places, there are no emergency services available, including in the city of Buffalo", in the State of New York, declared Saturday morning, during a press conference Mark Poloncarz, Erie County Manager.
Two people died of medical problems because they could not be rescued, he said.
The day before, a travel ban had been pronounced in this region.
But “there are probably hundreds of people still stuck in their vehicles, including people who tried to get out late last night,” Poloncarz said on Saturday.
He announced that he had requested the dispatch of the National Guard to rescue these people, who are stranded in extremely dangerous conditions.
"Don't leave your vehicle!"
tweeted local weather services.
“Tie a piece of clothing to your antenna or window to indicate that you need help,” they recommended.
A bit everywhere in American cities, such as Denver or Chicago, shelters have been opened to accommodate people in need, to allow them to warm up and protect them from the risk of hypothermia.
The storm is expected to last through the weekend, before temperatures return to seasonal norms by the middle of next week, the US Weather Service (NWS) said.
Until then, "if you must travel or be outdoors, prepare for extreme cold by wearing several layers of clothing, and covering as much skin as possible," he wrote on Saturday.
“In places, being outside could cause frostbite within minutes.
The strong winds still forecast, with gusts sometimes at more than 95 hm / h, risk causing further damage, such as trees falling on power lines.
Canada was also affected by the storm, where all provinces had weather alerts in place.
Hundreds of thousands of people were without power in Ontario and Quebec, and airports in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal were affected by flight cancellations.
United States: “Historic” winter storm cuts out power to 1.5 million homes
United States: Congress adopts a budget law with 45 billion for Ukraine