United States: Christmas upset by winter storm for millions of Americans

A church in the snow in Buffalo, December 24, 2022. AP - Derek Gee

Text by: RFI Follow

3 mins

The Christmas Eve schedule was turned upside down Saturday, December 24 for millions of Americans who faced a severe winter storm accompanied by extreme temperatures, which made many roads impassable, caused the cancellation of thousands of flights and caused the death of more than ten people.


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About 750,000 homes were without power on Saturday afternoon, according to the Poweroutage.us site, particularly in North Carolina and Maine, where temperatures were largely below freezing.

►Also read: “Historic” storm in the United States: 1.5 million Americans without electricity

Since Wednesday evening, the central and eastern 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.

The situation was particularly dire around the city of Buffalo, New York.


There is no doubt in my mind that global warming is causing chaos everywhere

 ,” said New York State Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul. 

People should stay at home


We call on people to stay at home!

 “, she continued.


What is happening right now around Buffalo is very dangerous.

We've had people stuck on the highways!

Fortunately, the police were able to contact these people and locate them.

We had to send snowplows to get to these people, get them out of their vehicles and drive them to the nearest emergency centres.

It's very dangerous to be on the roads right now.


The day before, a travel ban had been pronounced in this region.

But hundreds of people still got stuck in their vehicles, " 

including people who tried to get out late last night

 ," Erie County official Mark Poloncarz told a news conference Saturday.

The National Guard was sent to rescue them.

In total, authorities have confirmed at least 17 deaths, across eight states.

Some of those deaths have occurred on the roads, which have become very dangerous, such as in Ohio, where four people died in storm-related crashes, Gov. Mike DeWine said.

Thousands of flights canceled

Besides the roads, transportation was severely disrupted in general, even as tens of millions of Americans sought to travel to join their families for the holiday season.

But according to the American aviation authority (FAA) “ 

the strongest disturbances are behind us, and companies and airports will gradually recover

 ”, explained Pete Buttigieg, the Minister of Transport.

Many travelers thus found themselves hoping for a Christmas miracle, in the form of a last-minute seat on a plane or train that would allow them to arrive in time for the celebrations.

Cascading flight cancellations

The end of the year is one of the most important periods of the year for air traffic in the United States.

54 million people were to fly by January 3.

The American agency in charge of civil aviation, the FAA imposed flight cancellations, the time to clear snow from the infrastructures, and that the storms pass.

5,700 flights were canceled on Friday alone, so this Saturday, more than 1,000 flights are already expected to be canceled.

And there have been more than 20,000 reports over the past two days, according to the specialized site “Flight Aware”.

This is the tile for US airlines.

After two trying years marked by the Covid-19, they had regained hope with the Thanksgiving period last month.

They are now in crisis management mode.

They try to minimize disruption and also reassure frustrated travellers.

Southwest, American and Delta among others have started offering credits to their customers so they can travel later.

But across the Atlantic, we fear that most companies are not generous.

Because these storms are only the latest episode in a series of crises to be managed for them, after the pandemic and the lack of personnel, among others.

Shelters open

Almost 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.

Due to the very low temperatures, the pressure on the power grid was also extremely high.

The operator in a dozen states in the American Northeast, PJM, called on the population to reduce their consumption all day Saturday, in order to avoid cuts.

The storm is expected to last through the weekend, before temperatures return to seasonal normals by the middle of next week, the US Weather Service (NWS) said.







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