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Winter storm claims 31 lives across United States, causes widespread disruptions

By Sarah May
|
December 26, 2022

The devastating toll taken by the massive “bomb cyclone” winter storm impacting large swaths of the country over the holiday weekend continues to rise, with The Hill reporting that at least 31 people have perished thus far as a result.

From traffic pileups to power outages to life-threatening temperatures, regions nationwide have been contending with dangerous disruptions and tragic outcomes at what was to be a most festive time of year.

Buffalo battered

Likely among the most storm-ravaged parts of the country, Buffalo, New York has suffered at least 12 weather-related fatalities in recent days.

Having received roughly 43 inches of snow followed by bone-chilling temperatures, area residents have been facing hurricane-force winds as well as whiteout conditions.

As the New York Post noted, a Buffalo man was discovered frozen to death, lying face down in a snowbank at Bailey and Kensington Avenues on Christmas Eve.

Tragically, 56-year-old William Clay died on his birthday, and, according to his sister, lived less than a mile where his body was found, suffered from mental illness, and may have been neglecting to take his medications around the time of the incident.

Turnpike pileup

The horrific effects of the winter storm continued on Christmas Day when a pileup along the Ohio Turnpike claimed four lives and cause many more injuries, as the Toledo Blade reported.

Approximately 46 vehicles were involved in the series of collisions, reports of which began to pour in around 12:34 p.m.

The primary accident scene took place in Groton Township inside Erie County, roughly 55 miles east of Toledo, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

The Blade further noted that three of the four deceased victims had been identified Sunday night as Ohioans Julie Roth, 37, Bernard Bloniarz, 59, and 19-year-old Emma Smith of Webberville, Michigan, adding to the tally of eight deaths on Buckeye State roadways attributable to the weather conditions over the weekend.

Travel disruptions abound

Always a likely casualty whenever serious weather events take place, air travel over the busy Christmas weekend suffered massive disruptions due to the strong winds and plummeting temperatures brought by the monumental winter storm.

CNBC reported that according to FlightAware, over 17,000 flights in the U.S. were canceled from Wednesday onward toward Christmas, sending holiday travelers scrambling for alternative arrangements.

By Monday, however, it appeared that the disruptions were beginning to ease, with a reported 1,700 cancellations recorded, down from the 3,200 scuttled flights and 7,700 delays seen on Sunday.

A spokesperson from American Airlines reported, the “vast majority of our customers affected by cancellations were able to be reaccommodated, and Delta representatives said the carrier was “seeing steady recovery in operations.”

Darkness, cold descend

As if the aforementioned hazards and tragedies were not enough to make the holiday weekend one to remember for all the wrong reasons, as Fox Weather reported, power outages attendant to the storm impacted well over 1 million customers spanning 25 states.

Upwards of 200,000 homes in North Carolina were without power as of noontime Friday, with outages spreading to states all across the eastern and southern United States as wind speeds reached and exceeded 50 miles per hour.

Unaccustomed to regular blasts of Arctic air, even Texas was not immune to the effects of the winter weather event, with at least 77,000 customers in the Lone Star State finding themselves without power over the weekend, as Newsweek noted.

Though the forecast in the wake of the massive storm indicates that a significant warm-up is on the way for many hard-hit areas, the struggles persist in Buffalo, where huge snowdrifts, predictions of additional precipitation, and even some isolated instances of looting are making the run-up to the new year far from happy.