Winter storm and severe cold sweeps across US

By Aya Elamroussi, Derrick Hinds, Travis Caldwell, Maureen Chowdhury, Aditi Sangal and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 2117 GMT (0517 HKT) December 24, 2022
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3:54 p.m. ET, December 24, 2022

Key things to know about the winter storm on Saturday afternoon — and what else to expect this Christmas Eve 

From CNN staff

Jessica Chan navigates deep snow in Buffalo, New York, on December 24.
Jessica Chan navigates deep snow in Buffalo, New York, on December 24. (Jalen Wright/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

A deadly winter storm continues to pummel parts of the Upper Midwest and interior Northeast with heavy snow and blizzard conditions.

If you're just joining us, here's what you need to know:

  • Storm-related death toll rises to at least 16: Three people have died in relation to the winter storm in New York's Erie County, county officials said Saturday morning. Two people died in separate incidents Friday night when emergency medical personnel could not get to their homes in time for medical emergencies, and a county spokesperson confirmed a third storm-related fatality to CNN on Saturday afternoon. Wisconsin State Patrol on Thursday reported one fatal crash due to winter weather. The Tennessee Department of Health on Friday confirmed one storm-related fatality. Four people died in weather-related auto accidents in Ohio. Three people died in Kentucky. Three people died in weather-related traffic accidents in Kansas. Another person died in Kansas after their caravan slid off the icy road and into a frozen creek.
  • Less than 800,000 are still without power: As of 3:15 p.m. ET on Saturday, 755,210 customers are still in the dark, according to PowerOutage.US. The New England region has the highest amount of power outages, with 281,651 impacted customers.
  • Thousands of flights continue to be delayed or canceled: There have been more than 2,600 flight cancellations nationwide as of Saturday afternoon, according to the flight tracking site FlightAware. More than 6,000 flights have also been delayed so far on Saturday. Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is among the most impacted airports.
Travelers walk through Miami International Airport in Florida, on December 23.
Travelers walk through Miami International Airport in Florida, on December 23. (Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images)

Here's what else to expect this Christmas Eve:

  • Cold for many: Wind chills will be dangerously cold across much of the central and eastern US this weekend. “The life-threatening cold temperatures and dangerous wind chills will create a potentially life-threatening hazard for travelers that become stranded,” the National Weather Service said early Saturday.
  • Record temps in the South: Atlanta and Tallahassee, Florida, were forecast to have their coldest high temperature ever recorded on Dec. 24, according to the weather service.
  • Brutal cold elsewhere: Philadelphia and Pittsburgh were expected to see their coldest day Christmas Eve ever on Saturday. Washington, DC, could see its second-coldest on Christmas Eve, the first being in 1989. New York is set to experience its coldest Christmas Eve since 1906. Chicago is expecting temperatures to rebound above zero but will still experience its coldest Christmas Eve since 1983.
3:24 p.m. ET, December 24, 2022

Less than 800,000 customers still without power across the US due to winter storm 

From CNN’s Sara Smart

Less than 800,000 customers across the United States are still without power as winter weather and frigid temperatures continued.

As of 3:15 p.m. ET on Saturday, 755,210 customers are still in the dark, according to PowerOutage.US.

Here's a breakdown by national regions:

  • New England: 281,651
  • Southeast: 224,631
  • Mid-Atlantic: 154,864
  • South: 45,397
  • Pacific: 21,659
  • Great Lakes: 20,525
  • Territories: 4,403
  • Midwest: 1,591
  • Mountain: 489
2:50 p.m. ET, December 24, 2022

Buffalo resident's father and 85-year-old grandmother have been stranded in a car stuck in snow since Friday

From CNN’s Sara Smart

Lia Belles’ 85-year-old grandmother and her father have been stuck on New York State Route 198 in Buffalo, New York, since Friday afternoon.

They are among the "couple hundred" that officials in Erie County say are likely still trapped in their vehicles during the winter storm.

“There is nothing more I want other than their safety right now,” Belles told CNN, adding that she tried to walk out to them with a sled but the conditions made it impossible.

The worst part is that they are less than a mile from home, Belles says.

Her father would walk home but her grandmother is unable to. “He would never leave her alone,” she added.

Belles said contact with them is limited due to phone battery, and all they have is whatever is left in the car. They are turning the heat on and off to save what is left of the gas in the car, she said.

As of 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, Belles said they were able to get assistance getting the car physically unstuck, but they still are stranded as there is no path for them to leave.

“It’s very nerve-racking and difficult,” she said, “They’re definitely exhausted, but we’re seeing a little hope right now.”

2:36 p.m. ET, December 24, 2022

Tennessee power demand hit an all-time high amid severe winter weather that forced rolling outages

From CNN’s Hannah Sarisohn 

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) ended its rolling outages Saturday afternoon after power system conditions improved, according to a release from the electric utility company. 

Two all-time high records were set during this winter weather, according to TVA.

  • TVA supplied more power over the past 24 hours than at any other time in its history — 740 gigawatt-hours.
  • TVA experienced its all-time highest winter power demand.

“We know that asking for power conservation is challenging, especially during the holidays, and we appreciate everyone’s assistance and patience,” Don Moul, TVA’s chief operating officer, said in the statement. “TVA and local power companies continue to do everything possible to minimize any disruptions while ensuring that the overall power grid remains reliable.” 

2:27 p.m. ET, December 24, 2022

New York's Erie County is facing blistering blizzard conditions. Here's a look at some images

From CNN staff

Ice covers Hoaks restaurant along the Lake Erie shoreline in Hamburg in Erie County, New York, on December 24. 
Ice covers Hoaks restaurant along the Lake Erie shoreline in Hamburg in Erie County, New York, on December 24.  (John Normile/Getty Images)

The winter storm is bringing strong winds and blistering blizzard conditions to Erie County, New York. County officials have confirmed three storm-related deaths so far.

Two people died in separate incidents Friday night when emergency medical personnel could not get to their homes in time for medical emergencies, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said Saturday morning during a news conference. A county spokesperson confirmed a third storm-related fatality to CNN on Saturday afternoon.

Additionally, a "couple hundred" people are probably still trapped in their vehicles in Erie County, officials told CNN Saturday.

Here a look at some images from the county:

Paul Lamb clears his driveway on December 24, in Hamburg in Erie County, New York. 
Paul Lamb clears his driveway on December 24, in Hamburg in Erie County, New York.  (John Normile/Getty Images)
A truck remains stuck in snow in Hamburg in Erie County, New York. 
A truck remains stuck in snow in Hamburg in Erie County, New York.  (John Normile/Getty Images)

1:42 p.m. ET, December 24, 2022

A "couple hundred" people likely still trapped in their cars in New York's Erie County, officials say

From CNN's Isa Kaufman-Geballe

Ice covers the Lake Erie shoreline in Hamburg, New York, on Saturday.
Ice covers the Lake Erie shoreline in Hamburg, New York, on Saturday. (John Normile/Getty Images)

A "couple hundred" people are probably still trapped in their vehicles in Erie County as a dangerous New York blizzard lashes the state, officials told CNN Saturday. 

First responders have been making efforts to rescue Erie County residents who became stranded in their cars last night and this morning while strong winds and blistering blizzard conditions impact the county, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz told CNN’s Sarah Sidner Saturday. 

"It's probably somewhere in the vicinity of a couple hundred now, based on the numbers we've seen,” Poloncarz told CNN. “That's down dramatically from 500 or more in the overnight hours.” 

Poloncarz said earlier Saturday that up to two-thirds of emergency response vehicles in the hardest hit areas of the county were stuck, and discouraged residents from calling 911 unless their lives were in danger. 

"It's still a very dire situation,” Poloncarz said Saturday afternoon. 

The county is facing challenges keeping residents from driving on roads, despite there being a ban in place, Poloncarz told CNN.

"There is a driving ban that's going on for the whole county, and there's a reason why, it's because conditions are still so dire that you can easily get stuck, and then you are taking resources off the road when you really need it," he said Saturday. 

Erie County first responders have been able to get individuals into warming centers, Poloncarz said, and the Buffalo airport said on Twitter that transit police, Buffalo Airport Fire and Airfield teams have rescued stranded motorists and provided shelter for roughly 60 people.

At least two people have died in Erie County as a result of emergency personnel being unable to reach homes during medical emergencies, CNN previously reported.

1:25 p.m. ET, December 24, 2022

If you're driving for Christmas today, here's what to pack in your car to stay safe

From CNN's Kristen Rogers

A car drives during a blizzard warning in Iowa on Friday.
A car drives during a blizzard warning in Iowa on Friday. (Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen/USA Today)

If you're ever stranded in your car because of a bad winter storm, being prepared can be the difference between survival and serious harm or death.

For nearly two days back in January 2022, motorists were stuck on Interstate 95 in snowy and icy conditions in eastern Virginia after a storm left more than a foot of snow in the area.

And now at the end of 2022, we're looking at a "once-in-generation" bomb cyclone that could bring dangerous cold to much of the US.

Winter storms, bad weather and sloppy road conditions can be frightening and dangerous for travelers, and "are a factor in nearly half a million crashes and more than 2,000 road deaths every winter," according to AAA.

Because of these risks, "it's always important to be prepared versus get caught in a situation that turns dangerous or potentially deadly, especially in the winter season when temperatures can drop very, very cold in a short amount of time," said CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray.

Read about what you should have in your car to be safe:

2:14 p.m. ET, December 24, 2022

Electricity grid operator for 13 states asks public to conserve power and warns of possible rolling blackouts 

From Hannah Sarisohn

A sign informs patrons of a store closure due to widespread power outages in Charlotte, North Carolina, on December 24.
A sign informs patrons of a store closure due to widespread power outages in Charlotte, North Carolina, on December 24. (Logan Cyrus/AFP/Getty Images)

PJM Interconnection, the power grid operator for at least 13 states, asked its customers to conserve electricity due to the weather, according to a company statement.

The organization says it serves about 65 million people in all or parts of Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.   

"Conserving electricity as much as possible between the hours of 4 a.m. on December 24, 2022, and 10 a.m. on December 25, 2022, will help ensure adequate power supplies," PJM said.

PJM advised consumers to set thermostats lower than usual and postpone using major electric appliances such as stoves and dishwashers. 

“CPJM continues to carefully monitor the power supply conditions. It will do everything possible to keep power flowing in the region. If necessary, PJM may take additional steps, such as reducing voltage. PJM is coordinating efforts among generators, power suppliers and local utilities,” according to the statement.   

In a video on Twitter, PJM Sr. Vice President of Operations Mike Bryson thanked customers for their ongoing conversation efforts. 

Bryson said the risk of rotating customer outages is “very real.”  

2:25 p.m. ET, December 24, 2022

It's freezing across the US — here are some ways you can help those facing homelessness in the cold

From CNN's Ashley Vaughan

Volunteers deliver propane for portable heaters to homeless people in Chicago, on December 22. 
Volunteers deliver propane for portable heaters to homeless people in Chicago, on December 22.  (Erin Hooley/AP)

major winter storm will have more than 100 million people in the US under winter weather alerts this Christmas weekend.

But for those who call city streets home, heading inside is not always an option.

Here are some ways you can help:

  • Locate a shelter or warming center: From your smartphone you can connect someone desiring shelter with support. The Salvation Army claims to have a presence in nearly every zip code across the country. And every location can serve as a warming station. The organization is tailoring responses to fit the unique needs of each of its communities — including areas caught up in the current cold snap. People can locate their nearest Salvation Army center through the organization’s online location finder.
  • Volunteer digitally: Texas-based non-profit Our Calling empowers everyone to digitally volunteer with one swipe on a smartphone. The organization features a public app that serves two purposes: helping those in need find nearby shelters and enabling users to facilitate the distribution of aid to those dwelling in street encampments.
  • Donate: Every organization featured in this piece made clear that financial donations are always needed. It is a powerful way people can help from miles away and make lasting impacts that meet needs both now and later, when things thaw out. You can donate to any of the organizations featured in this article by clicking this link.

Read more about ways you can help here.

An outreach worker delivers supplies to people living in a homeless camp in Louisville, Kentucky, on December 23.
An outreach worker delivers supplies to people living in a homeless camp in Louisville, Kentucky, on December 23. (Jon Cherry/Getty Images)