2 Weeks of Winter Storms in US Leave Dozens Dead, Chaos in Their Wake
PORTLAND, Ore. — Two weeks of storms that have turned roads icy, frozen people to death from Oregon to Tennessee and caused power outages that could take weeks to fix continued to sock both coasts on Friday with another round of weather chaos.
The rain, snow, wind and bitterly cold temperatures have been blamed for at least 55 deaths in the U.S. in the past two weeks as a series of storms moved across the country. Schools and roads have closed, and air traffic has been snarled.
There is hope. The forecast for next week calls for above average temperatures across almost the whole country, according to the National Weather Service.
Heavier-than-forecast snow fell in New York City, Baltimore and Washington on Friday and Michigan City, Indiana, received 43 centimeters of lake-effect snow. But the biggest problems remained in places hit hard by storms earlier in the week.
On the West Coast, Oregon’s governor declared a statewide emergency Thursday night, nearly a week after the start of a crippling ice storm.
Thousands have been without power since last weekend in parts of Oregon’s Willamette Valley thanks to freezing rain.
“We lost power on Saturday, and we were told yesterday that it would be over two weeks before it’s back on,” said Jamie Kenworthy, a real estate broker in Jasper in Lane County.
About 90,000 customers remained without electricity Friday afternoon in the state after back-to-back storms, according to poweroutage.us.
Portland Public Schools canceled classes for the fourth straight day amid concerns about icy roads and water damage to buildings, and state offices in the city were also ordered closed.
Ice was also a problem in the South. Snow and freezing rain on Thursday added another coat of ice in Tennessee. More than 22.8 centimeters of snow has fallen around Nashville since Sunday, nearly twice the yearly average.
Authorities blamed at least 17 deaths in Tennessee on the weather. Several were from traffic wrecks. In Washington County, a patient in an ambulance and a person in a pickup were killed in a head-on crash when the truck lost control on a snowy road.
Exposure to cold was deadly, too. A 25-year-old man was found dead in a mobile home in Lewisburg after a space heater fell over and turned off.
“There was ice on the walls in there,” Marshall County Chief Deputy Bob Johnson said.
Kentucky reported five deaths from the freezing weather. A statement from Governor Andy Beshear didn’t provide details.
The cold in Washington state was blamed for five deaths. The people — most of them presumed homeless — died from exposure to cold last week in Seattle as temperatures plummeted to well below freezing, the medical examiner’s office said.
Two people died from exposure as far south as Louisiana, where temperatures in part of the state remained below freezing for more than two days.
The cold broke so many water mains in Memphis that the entire city was placed on a boil water notice because the water pressure was so low, Memphis Light, Gas and Water said. Bottled water was being given out Friday in at least two locations.
In Jackson, Mississippi, law enforcement agencies are investigating whether social media rumors about a potential water outage during the cold snap prompted people to fill bathtubs with tap water. The water system in Mississippi’s capital experienced a drop in pressure that temporarily made faucets run dry for thousands of customers Wednesday and Thursday, though service was restored by Friday.
A significant drop in blood donations led Chattanooga, Tennessee-based Blood Assurance to recommend that more than 70 hospitals in five states halt elective surgeries until Wednesday to let the organization rebuild its inventory. In a news release Thursday, the group cited the weather and several massive blood transfusions in the previous 24 hours in its plea to the hospitals in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina and Tennessee.
On Friday, more bitterly cold air was spilling into the Midwest from Canada. Several states were under an advisory as forecasters warned of wind chills dipping to minus 34 degrees Celsius could be common through Sunday morning.
Since extreme cold weather set in last week, more than 60 oil spills and other environmental incidents have been reported in North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields. Wind chills as low as minus 56.6 C have strained workers and equipment, increasing the likelihood of accidents.
Lake-enhanced snow finally moved out of Buffalo, New York, late Thursday after burying parts of the city and some suburbs in five feet of snow in five days. The Buffalo Bills renewed their call for snow shovelers on Friday, offering $20 an hour for help digging out Highmark Stadium before Sunday’s divisional playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
In Washington, snow fell softly and the streets around the U.S. Capitol were silent. Schools closed for the second time in a week, and the government was on a two-hour delay.