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A violent storm disrupts Christmas in the United States



(New York) The Christmas weekend is turned upside down for millions of Americans who face a severe winter storm, accompanied by extreme temperatures, which has made many roads impassable, caused the cancellation of thousands of flights and caused death of at least 17 people.

About 530,000 homes were still without power Saturday around 5 p.m. (Eastern time) (compared to up to 1.5 million the day before), according to the site, particularly in North Carolina and Maine, where the temperatures were largely negative.


A note says this bar in the Plaza Midwood area of ​​Charlotte, NC is closed due to a power outage.

The US National Weather Service (NWS) warned that the cold posed a deadly risk and urged Americans in affected areas to stay indoors. Friday, because of the wind, the temperature felt down to -48 ° C, according to the same source.

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 impressive around the city of Buffalo, in the state of New York (northeast).


A car is left on the side of the road due to dangerous road conditions in Seattle.

“The winds are so strong” that the snow forms like “sand dunes”, it’s “crazy”, described to AFP Ali Lawson, 34, who has lived in Buffalo for eight years.

“Last night, we couldn’t see beyond our porch”, and the snow plows can’t even go out to clear the roads, she said, congratulating herself that she still had electricity unlike some other residents.

The day before, a travel ban had been pronounced in this region. But hundreds of people were still stuck in their vehicles, “including people who tried to get out late last night,” Erie County official Mark Poloncarz said at a press conference on Saturday. The National Guard was sent to rescue them.

“In the most affected places, there are no emergency services available, including in the city of Buffalo”, detailed Mr. Poloncarz. Two people died of medical problems because they could not be rescued, he said.

In total, authorities have confirmed at least 17 deaths, across eight states, due to the weather.

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.


A wrecked car in Charlotte, North Carolina

Thousands of flights canceled

Besides the roads, transportation was severely disrupted in general, just as tens of millions of Americans sought to reunite with their families for the holiday season.

More than 5,500 flights were canceled on Friday, or 20% of air traffic, tweeted US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

More than 2,800 flights were again canceled on Saturday and 6,600 others delayed, according to the specialized site But “the strongest disturbances are behind us, and the companies and airports will gradually recover”, explained Mr. Buttigieg.

Many travelers thus found themselves hoping for a Christmas miracle in the form of a last-minute seat on a plane or train.

Zack Cuyler, 35, is 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 is “quite overwhelmed”, he should 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.


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.

Due to the very low temperatures, the pressure on the power grid was 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 cold has caused the water in this fountain to freeze in New Orleans.

Some cities, notably in North Carolina, had to temporarily cut power due to high electricity demand, leaving homes without heat.

The storm is expected to last through the weekend, before temperatures return to seasonal norms by the middle of next week, the 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,” the NWS wrote on Saturday. “In places, being outside could cause frostbite within minutes. »

Canada was also affected by the storm: all the provinces sounded the weather alert.

Hundreds of thousands of people were without power in Ontario and Quebec, and airports in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal were affected by flight cancellations.

Since Friday afternoon, the storm has become a “low pressure bomb”: a powerful conflict between two air masses, one very cold from the Arctic and the other tropical from the Gulf of Mexico.

Low pressure bombs can produce heavy rain or snowfall, coastal flooding, and hurricane-force winds.

From Toronto, meteorologist Kelsey McEwen reported waves of up to eight meters on Lake Erie. The US weather report reported winds of 120 km / h in Fairport Harbor, Ohio, on the lake.

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