Oregon braces for freezing rain while cold temperatures elsewhere strain electric grids

Jan 16, 2024, 6:30 AM | Updated: 6:06 pm

DENVER, COLORADO - JANUARY 15: Crews work to deice an airplane at Denver International Airport in D...

DENVER, COLORADO - JANUARY 15: Crews work to deice an airplane at Denver International Airport in Denver, Colorado on January 15, 2024. Over 320 flights have been canceled because of a winter storm that his the airport with snow and freezing temperatures. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

(Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Parts of Oregon braced for freezing rain Tuesday after a weekend of extreme winds knocked down trees and cut power to thousands, while communities across the U.S. also struggled with perilously cold weather that closed schools and put electricity supplies at risk.

Another day of record cold temperatures swept much of the Rockies, Great Plains and Midwest, with wind chills below minus 30 (minus 34.4 Celsius) extending into the mid-Mississippi Valley. On the East Coast, meanwhile, New York City and Philadelphia ended a drought of sorts with enough snow falling for play in both cities.

More than 80,000 U.S. homes and businesses were without power by Tuesday afternoon, most of them in Oregon. Portland General Electric warned that freezing rain could delay restoration efforts. Tennessee Valley Authority, which provides electricity in seven states, asked customers to voluntarily cut back, citing a high demand for power because of the cold. A similar plea came from the grid operator in Texas.

More than 200 residents were evacuated after a broken pipe flooded the first three floors of an apartment building in downtown St. Louis, KSDK-TV reported. An assistant manager at the Mark Twain Building complex said all 213 residents of the building, many of them elderly, were evacuated onto five warming buses.

Schools were closed major cities, including in Portland, Oregon, Chicago, Detroit, Denver, Dallas, Houston, Memphis, Tennessee, across New England and in the Washington, D.C., region. Federal offices in the nation’s capital were closed as roughly 2 inches (5 centimeters) of snow hit the area.

The National Weather Service posted an ice storm warning in parts of Oregon, including Portland, until Wednesday when temperatures were expected to rise to 43 degrees (6.1 C).

“Power outages and tree damage are likely due to the ice. Travel could be difficult,” the weather service said.

Rough weather was a challenge across the U.S. More than 2 feet (61 centimeters) of snow covered southeast Alaska, sinking six boats in Juneau and causing avalanches. Three of the six boats were saved.

More than 9 inches (23 centimeters) of snow hit Nashville, Tennessee, since Sunday — nearly twice the annual average. The Tennessee Department of Health on Tuesday confirmed six weather-related fatalities.

Maeve McConville said she and her sister were stuck inside an American Airlines plane at the Nashville airport for seven hours Monday after arriving from Washington.

“The pilot came on and said, ‘No gates available, and ground operations just told us it’s going to be at least an hour,'” McConville told The Associated Press.

But an hour turned into many hours. McConville said portable stairs were considered but they were not used because of a broken part. American said “challenging conditions” made gate arrivals very difficult. Passengers watched hours of TV and movies as they waited to be taken to a gate.

“I’ve now seen all of season four of ‘Friday Night Lights,’” McConville said.

In New Jersey, authorities said two people died when their SUV collided with a snowplow on the slick Garden State Parkway in Monmouth County.

A man in Chicago fought off the Arctic-like cold Tuesday with a fire made from cardboard, splintered pallets and other trash under Interstate 90/94. Others without a secure home sought shelter in more than 20 tents erected nearby.

Forecasters in Buffalo, New York, warned that the region should brace for a foot (30 centimeters) or more of snow through Thursday, on top of a mighty storm that delayed an NFL playoff game for a day.

Armed with only a shovel, Belinda Bonacquisti praised a 14-year-old boy with a snowblower who helped her clear 3 feet (91 centimeters) from her suburban Buffalo driveway Monday.

“I didn’t know where he came from or what direction,” she told WKBW-TV. “He just really bailed me out.”

New York City’s Central Park recorded more than an inch (2.5 centimeters) of snow since midnight, the first time since 2022 that it had at least an inch the same day. The weather service said Philadelphia snapped a similar 715-day streak, too.

Despite the threats posed by cold weather, there still was room for frivolity.

In Philadelphia, more than 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) of snow finally fell after a long dry spell. Isaiah Stout said his kids “lost their minds” and wanted to play outside, so they rushed to Target to buy the right clothes.

“It was really crazy in there,” Stout said. “Got their snowsuits and their snow boots and now they’re excited.”

Dan O’Conor, known as the “Great Lake Jumper,” did his usual morning flip into Lake Michigan in Chicago where the air temperature was at minus 5 degrees (minus 15 C), according to his social media feed.

In Washington, a friendly snowball fight broke out among a few dozen people on the National Mall. The group even has a name: the Washington DC Snowball Fight Association.

“It’s a way just to let off steam,” Michael Lipin said, brushing snow off his cap, “bring some childhood memories back.”


Associated Press reporters Claire Rush in Portland, Oregon; Michael Hill in Albany, New York; Carolyn Thompson in Buffalo, New York; Travis Loller in Nashville, Tennessee; Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tennessee; Ken Kusmer in Indianapolis; and Teresa Crawford in Chicago contributed to this story.

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Oregon braces for freezing rain while cold temperatures elsewhere strain electric grids