Millions of Americans face below-zero temperatures as storms bring blast of Arctic air, snow and ice

Jan 14, 2024, 7:56 AM | Updated: 2:42 pm

Subfreezing temperatures across much of the U.S. left millions of Americans facing dangerous cold over the weekend as Arctic storms knocked out electricity to tens of thousands in the Northwest, brought snow to the South, and walloped the Northeast with blizzard conditions that forced the postponement of an NFL game.

An estimated 95 million people nationwide were under weather warnings or advisories Sunday for wind chills below zero Fahrenheit (minus 17 Celsius). Forecasters said the severe cold was expected to push as far south as northern Texas twhile the bitter blast could push wind chills as low as minus 70 degrees (minus 56 Celsius) in Montana and the Dakotas.

In Buffalo, New York, where snowfall of 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 centimeters) was forecast, severe conditions led officials to postpone the Buffalo Bills-Pittsburgh Steelers NFL playoff game from Sunday to Monday.

Workers with shovels and trucks worked to clear snow from the field at Buffalo’s Highmark Stadium as the Bills warned volunteers eager to help with the stadium shoveling to stay at home and not defy a travel ban on area roads.

“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.

Zack Taylor, a National Weather Service meteorologist in College Park, Maryland, warned some parts of the Northeast would see intense snowfall and extreme winds, with gusts up to 50 mph (89 kph) possible.

“That’s why they’re expecting to see near-blizzard conditions at times,” Taylor said.

Airports across the country were impacted. More than half of flights into and out of Buffalo Niagara International Airport were canceled. Scores of flights also were canceled or delayed at Chicago O’Hare International Airport and the Denver and Seattle-Tacoma airports.

Forecasters also warned 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 with some “near whiteout conditions” possible.

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 parts of Arkansas, northern Mississippi and west Tennessee.

Juan Villegas wore layers of clothing beneath his heavy coat Sunday as he and roughly a dozen subcontractors in downtown Des Moines, Iowa, shoveled away a blanket of snow, which also covered park benches and partially buried fire hydrants the day before the state’s presidential caucuses.

Working in temperatures of minus 15 degrees (minus 26 degrees Celsius), 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.

Much of Wisconsin were under advisories through Monday afternoon, with predicted wind chills as low as 30 degrees below zero (minus 34 Celsius).

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 expected to coat some roads in ice and up to an inch (2.5 centimeters) of snow.

“It’s cold out here,” said Tramel, who told KSLA-TV she bought bread and ingredients for enough soup to last days.

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders declared a state of emergency in advance 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 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 where they had stood for more than 130 years in South Portland, Maine.

“History is just being washed away,” Michelle Erskine said Sunday, a day after capturing video footage of the last two wooden shacks sliding into the ocean.

More than 162,000 homes and businesses in Oregon were without electricity, most of them in the Portland metro area, a day after high winds and a mix of snow and ice brought down trees and power lines, according to Widespread power outages affecting tens of thousands were also reported Sunday in Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

In one suburb south of the city, 100 trees toppled Saturday, including one that fell on a house and killed an older man. Another person died of suspected hypothermia and a third died in a fire that spread from an open-flame stove after a tree fell onto an RV.

The snow and gusting winds had let up Sunday, but frigid temperatures meant roads remained treacherous and much of the city was shut down. Multnomah County, which is home to Portland, asked for volunteers Sunday to staff its urgently expanded severe weather shelters for the homeless. The shelters served 821 people overnight Saturday and three more shelters were added for Sunday night for a total of 12 spaces, the county said.

In Lake Oswego, a suburb of Portland, Glenn Prohaska was looking for a business that was open and had WiFi so he could book a hotel. With the power out for 24 hours, the temperature in his home had dropped to the 20s overnight.

“In the 40 years I’ve been here, this is the worst I’ve seen,” he said.

Weather-related deaths were reported earlier in California, Idaho, Illinois and Wisconsin.


Bynum reported from Savannah, Georgia. Associated Press journalists Gillian Flaccus in Portland, Oregon; 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.

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Millions of Americans face below-zero temperatures as storms bring blast of Arctic air, snow and ice