Weather Updates | Travel chaos, bitter cold, flooding
PORTLAND, Ore. — Emergency weather shelters in Portland, Oregon, called for volunteers amid high demand and staffing issues as a winter storm bringing snow, freezing rain, ice and frigid temperatures descended upon the area.
An unprecedented number of people are seeking shelter in a region where thousands live outside, and many staff members have been unable to make it to their shifts because of dangerous road conditions or illness, officials said.
Nearly 800 people slept at the city’s five emergency shelters on Thursday night, said Julie Sullivan-Springhetti, spokesperson for Multnomah County, which is home to Portland.
“The largest number of people that I’ve ever seen have come into shelter,” she said. “We are trying to get more support. We have the experts in charge, but this is for helping folks with meals, wheelchairs, getting them to the right spot.”
The shelters will remain open until Saturday.
— “Help!” say overwhelmed emergency shelters in Portland, Oregon
— Georgia has hundreds facing sub-zero temps without power or heat
— Parts of New York City flooded; trapped motorists rescued
— South Dakota governor deploys National Guard to help desperate tribes
— Ontario, Quebec, pummeled by winter storm
— Ho, ho, snow: NORAD’s Santa tracker ready to roll despite winter storm
— Falling iguana alert! Even sunny Florida could see freezing temps this weekend
— Huge storm intensifies into a “ bomb cyclone ”
— As temperatures plummet, migrants wait along the U.S.-Mexico border for a possible change to asylum rules
— Air Force tops Baylor in frigid Armed Forces Bowl
ATLANTA — Hundreds of people in Atlanta and parts of northern Georgia were without power and facing the possibility of subzero temperatures without heat because strong winds have downed power lines or knocked trees into them.
Georgia Power said it had restored service to roughly 120,000 customers, leaving about 1,700 still in the dark as of 6 p.m. EST.
A wind chill advisory for Georgia remains in effect through noon Saturday.
Geneva Davis of Douglasville woke up to a temperature of about 18 degrees Fahrenheit (about minus 8 Celsius). Her area had heat and electricity because the power lines are underground, she said, but those with overhead lines, “they’re the ones who are suffering.”
Gov. Brian Kemp announced a state of emergency Thursday that loosened restrictions on propane carriers and allowed state parks to open warming centers for people who lose power and stranded motorists.
NEW YORK — Storm flooding exacerbated by heavy winds from a winter storm inundated roads, homes and businesses in parts of New York City on Friday.
In Howard Beach, Queens, police officers trudged through knee-deep water to pull stranded motorists to safety in the morning.
In Rockaway Beach, Queens, bystander video posted by the Rockaway Times showed a man wading past submerged cars and debris to rescue a child from a flooded ground-floor apartment.
The city’s emergency management commissioner said the new moon, high tide and offshore winds made the flooding more severe.
Commissioner Zachary Iscol said fierce winds pushed water into New York Harbor and Jamaica Bay, adding about 3 feet (1 meter) to the mean tide flood surge.
The police department stationed emergency services trucks and other high-axle vehicles in flood-prone areas to facilitate rescues, Iscol said.
“They did do a number of rescues this morning,” Iscol said. “None of them were life-threatening. Most of them were folks who were trapped in vehicles.”
Long Island also got hit hard by rain, with enough water flooding the streets in some places to lift parked cars off the ground and cascade into basements.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is expanding the state National Guard’s mission to assist both the Oglala Sioux and the Rosebud Sioux Tribes with firewood and snow removal amid the relentless wind and life-threatening cold that have crippled their reservations in the southwestern corner of the state.
Noem announced the deployment to haul firewood from the Black Hills Forest Service to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe late Thursday, and on Friday she said the Guard would assist the Oglala Sioux Tribe as well.
Tribal officials say snow drifts have formed as high as 10 feet (3 meters), blocking roads and stranding families with dwindling supplies for heating and food.
On the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Harlie Young awaited delivery of firewood. Her house was blocked by a huge snow drift. amid frigid temperatures outside.
“My windows are iced over with at least an inch thick of ice,” she said. “We’re all kind of huddled up in the living room where the wood stove is burning.”
Young said she was with six others in the house, five children ranging in age from 2 to 16 and her 58-year-old father.
TORONTO — Meteorologists in Canada are warning of a potential once-in-a-decade weather event as a winter storm causes widespread school closures, power outages and flight cancellations.
Environment Canada is predicting strong winds, heavy snowfall and possible flash freezing and has issued winter storm warnings for the vast majority of Ontario and Quebec.
“We may only see one of these storms every five or 10 years,” says Environment Canada meteorologist Mitch Meredith. “I’ve only seen a couple of storms like this in the last 20 years.”
Environment Canada said flash, or sudden, freezes are likely as rain turned to heavy snow on Friday in parts of southern Ontario, creating dangerous driving conditions.
The storm upended holiday travel plans for thousands of people as airlines preemptively canceled flights, with more disruptions expected.
JACKSON, Miss. — In Jackson, Mississippi, the city’s beleaguered water system has so far been able to withstand blistering temperature drops, city officials said Friday. The mayor had expressed concerns that the system — which has led to numerous water shortages in recent years — remained vulnerable to subfreezing temperatures.
The city’s main water plants “held up to the temperature drops overnight,” city spokeswoman Melissa Faith Payne told WLBT-TV. There have been some water main breaks and some residents have experienced lower water pressure, but crews were making repairs, she said.
NEW YORK — Calling it a “kitchen sink storm,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency Friday as wintry weather heads into the state.
“It is throwing everything at us but the kitchen sink. We’ve had ice, flooding, snow, freezing temperatures, and everything that Mother Nature could wallop at us this weekend,” Hochul said during a press briefing.
In some parts of the state, precipitation is coming down in rain, which is then turning into ice as temperatures quickly dip. Other parts of the state are at risk of flooding, Hochul said.
“The rain comes down and there’s barely enough time between the rain and the icing for our snowplows and crews to be able to salt the roads,” the governor said.
“This is a life threatening event,” Hochul said.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Rest assured, kids. A bomb cyclone is no match for the big man in red.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, is the U.S. military agency responsible for monitoring and defending the skies above North America.
The agency also runs the NORAD Tracks Santa service, which allows people to follow his Christmas journey through its noradsanta.org website, social media channels and mobile app.
The agency this year plans to have about 1,500 volunteers working on Christmas Eve to field phone calls from children who want to know Santa’s location and delivery schedule. The frightful weather isn’t expected to affect Santa’s schedule.
“I think Santa will be right at home with the Arctic weather that’s hitting into the lower 48,” says Lt. General David Nahom, a NORAD official based in Anchorage, Alaska.
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — This week’s massive storm with its blizzard conditions and Arctic air may set some temperature and wind gust records, but it isn’t unprecedented.
That’s according to Greg Carbin, chief of forecast operations for the Weather Prediction Center at the National Weather Service. But the storm hitting just before the Christmas holiday when so many Americans are traveling, however, will make it especially disruptive.
“The impacts are perhaps far greater than they might be in the middle of winter during a typical weekend without a holiday,” said Carbin. “It is a notable storm.”
The initial shock of cold temperatures is like the fatal February 2021 winter storm where frigid air descended into Texas. But the cold during that storm lingered, knocking out power for millions in Texas. Many died from hypothermia. This storm isn’t expected to last as long.
“Give it a day or two” and temperatures will start to rebound, Carbin said.
WATERLOO, Iowa — Even though the sporting events were canceled, eastern Iowa sports broadcaster Mark Woodley didn’t get the day off.
“I normally do sports,” Woodley says on-air for Waterloo TV station KWWL. “Everything is canceled here for the next couple of days so what better time to ask the sports guy to come in about five hours earlier than he would normally wake up and go stand out in the wind and the snow and the cold and tell other people not to do the same?”
By midday Friday, a compilation of his TV stand-ups had been viewed nearly 5 million times on Twitter.
He later says to a news anchor: “I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. The good news is that I can still feel my face right now. The bad news is, I kind of wish I couldn’t.”
It may be awhile before Woodley returns to sports. Waterloo, which is about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northeast of Des Moines, remains under a blizzard warning until 6 a.m. Saturday.
Power outages are piling up across the United States from a winter storm that is bringing heavy snow and powerful winds to much of the country.
More than 1.4 million homes and businesses were without electricity Friday morning. That’s according to the website PowerOutage.us, which tracks utility reports.
Most of the outages are in the Eastern U.S., where gusty winds have knocked down trees and power lines.
In Vermont, residents were told to plan for a “multi-day event” for full power restoration and cleanup.
“I’m hearing from crews who are seeing grown trees ripped out by the roots,” Mari McClure, president of Green Mountain Power, the state’s largest utility, said at a news conference.
In Maine, gusts approaching 70 mph (113 kph) were reported along the coast Friday morning. Atop New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, the tallest peak in the Northeast, the wind topped 130 mph (210 kph).
Hundreds of utility and tree crews were deployed in New England, but the high winds hampered them. The limit for using bucket trucks is typically 25 mph (40 kph) to 35 mph (56 kph), a utility official said.
SEATTLE — All bus service was suspended in the greater Seattle area Friday morning due to an ice storm that made travel treacherous and Sea-Tac International Airport closed two out of three runways.
King County Metro said buses were unable to leave bases due to “deteriorating and unsafe road conditions.” The agency said it hoped it would be able to run buses later Friday. In Pierce, Kitsap and Snohomish counties, authorities also halted bus service.
The Pacific Northwest has shivered under extreme cold for several days. Forecasters said the freezing rain, which is affecting western Washington and Oregon, is happening as temperatures start to rise and a storm moves through. The warm up will be quick, with forecasters saying temperatures could reach the 50s in Seattle by Christmas.
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — The huge winter storm pummeling parts of the United States and Canada has intensified into a bomb cyclone. That’s according to the National Weather Service, which says the atmospheric pressure of the storm has dropped rapidly enough over the past 24 hours to classify the system that way.
John Moore, a spokesman and meteorologist with the National Weather Service, says the central pressure of the system has fallen rapidly and is expected to continue dropping over the next few hours.
Blizzard warnings are in effect in the Great Lakes area, where snowfall is expected to combine with powerful winds to create whiteout conditions.
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Extreme cold, powerful wind and blowing snow are wreaking havoc on holiday travelers.
The National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center calls it a “historic winter storm.” If you’re in the U.S., there’s a good chance winter weather of some sort is in your forecast. The weather service says its map “depicts one of the greatest extents of winter weather warnings and advisories ever.”
By the numbers:
— 181 million people are under wind chill warnings or advisories.
— More than 11 million people are under blizzard warnings.
— 58 million people face winter storm warnings.
— And more than 500,000 people are under ice storm warnings.
NEW YORK — What is a “bomb cyclone” anyway?
The name comes from the meteorological term bombogenesis, which occurs when a fast-developing storm rapidly intensifies, causing atmospheric pressure to quickly drop in a 24-hour period. Bombogenesis creates a bomb cyclone.
Extremely cold, spinning air sits at high altitude at the North pole. That’s the polar vortex.
“It’s kind of a refrigerator that stores that cold air,” said Greg Carbin, chief of forecast operations for the Weather Prediction Center at the National Weather Service. “Every once in a while, you break a dam, so to speak, and that cold air can spread south.”
The jet stream — wobbling air currents in the middle and upper parts of the atmosphere — shifted and pushed the cold down into the U.S.
The cold Arctic air met warmer air resulting in a drop in air pressure.
“Its food is temperature differences. The bigger the temperature difference, the better the prospects for a cyclone to become very deep, like a bomb,” said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Bomb cyclones are particularly strong storms that take place in temperate zones. Rapidly lowering air pressure creates them and makes them especially explosive.
CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — A group of Venezuelan migrants sought refuge from the cold under blankets beside a bonfire in a dirt alleyway beside a crumbling cinderblock wall in this city across the border from El Paso.
“We’re from the coast (of Venezuela) with lot of sun and the cold affects us,” said 22-year-old Rafael Gonzalez and a native of La Guaira on the Caribbean coast. “The shelter here is very full. … And that means it’s our turn to be here, having a little bonfire.”
He and others said they are eager to learn whether the U.S. will lift restrictions on migrants seeking asylum at the border.
Nearby, migrants from Venezuela and Central America sought refuge from the cold in a three-room shelter without beds, lying shoulder-to-shoulder among blankets on a concrete floor.
The shelter has been forged gradually with repairs to an abandoned building in recent weeks. The project is the work of pastor Elias Rodriguez of the Casa Nueva Voz ministry, who grew concerned about the emergence of a small “tent city” along the Rio Grande without even a water faucet.
“Outside there are people making fires, people waiting by the door because we only have 135 spaces,” Rodriguez said.
“It’s been so cold that people, when I step outside, they say, ‘Please let me in even if there’s standing room only, I don’t even have to find a place on the floor to sleep as long as you just allow me to come in.’”
FORT WORTH, Texas — “Cold might be putting it mildly,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said after the Falcons beat Baylor 30-15 on Thursday night.
“I don’t think I’ve experienced anything like that,” he said. “When it’s not warm, it’s not easy. It never is at the United States Air Force Academy. But these guys, just the heart, the guts and the right, extraordinary young people. I’m glad they’re fighting for our country.”
Baylor officials announced it was the coldest kickoff temperature in the history of the program based about 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Dallas-Fort Worth in Waco.
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