Millions of Americans arose early on Christmas day to see the effects of the frigid winter storm that at that point had resulted in the deaths of at least 18 people within the previous 48 hours, forcing some to stay in their homes amid a proliferation of snow drifts while shutting off power to a plethora of homeowners and businesses.
The Associated Press (AP) stated that the extent of the storm was almost unimaginable.
The weather phenomenon was a long-ranging storm that extended across the Great Lakes near Canada to the Rio Grande along the border with Mexico.
An estimated 60 percent of the population was under a winter warning or weather advisory, and temperatures dropped dramatically below normal from east of the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachians, the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS) declared.
The lack of power hindered aid efforts and impeded the attempts of those struggling to keep warm when temperatures dropped.
Christmas travelers had to contend with issues of a different sort. Recent figures show that more than 2,360 flights, both international and domestic, were canceled on Saturday, according to the flight-tracking website FlightAware.com.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg tweeted late on Saturday night stating that “the most extreme disruptions are behind us as airline and airport operations gradually recover.”
These words of comfort were provided to travelers who were trapped in airports such as Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, and New York.
Forecasters warned that a “bomb cyclone” storm, which occurs when atmospheric pressure decreases rapidly in an intense storm, was forming close to the Great Lakes, stirring up blizzard conditions with massive snowfalls and strong winds driving the cataclysmic storm.
The AP report detailed the storm-related deaths that had recently been reported across the nation.
Four people died as victims of an Ohio Turnpike pileup involving some 50 vehicles; four motorists were killed in separate accidents that occurred in Missouri and Kansas; an Ohio utility worker was electrocuted; a Vermont woman was hit by a falling branch; a homeless man was located in the midst of Colorado's subzero temperatures; and a woman fell through Wisconsin river ice.
In the midst of a devastating storm in New York state, Governor Kathy Hochul (D) deployed the National Guard to Erie County and its main city, Buffalo, where authorities said emergency services had essentially collapsed in the face of severe snowstorm conditions.
Montana was the state most affected by the cold, seeing temperatures drop to -50F.
Near-white-out conditions were observed in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan. In the city of Buffalo, New York, the NWS stated there was “zero mile” visibility.
Within the Pacific Northwest, some residents skated on the frozen streets of Seattle and Portland.
The AFP (Agence France-Presse) reported that road ice and white-out conditions caused the closure of some of the country's most traveled routes, including the cross-country Interstate 70, parts of which were temporarily closed in Colorado as well as Kansas.
By mid-morning Christmas Day, the AP had updated its estimate of the number of deaths caused by the storm to 24. The increase came after chaos on the roads led to numerous pileups along several major routes throughout the country.