(Update: Adds info, updates info, adds photo)
Miami, Dec 25 (EFE).- A winter storm of epic proportions dubbed Elliott, although weakening on Christmas Day, has killed at least 20 people and is continuing to subject much of the United States to frigid temperatures, heavy snowfall and blocked streets and roadways, along with causing maddening delays for travelers at dozens of airports.
The National Weather Service on Sunday forecast that the arctic cold blast will continue to move slowly eastward as it weakens, but shivering temperatures and heavy snowfall in certain areas will remain.
The NWS said in a statement that: “The large and robust low pressure system lifting through southeastern Canada is expected to slowly progress eastward while weakening. … (bringing) blustery West/Northwesterly winds … (and) cold Canadian air to the eastern two-thirds of the nation, with only slow moderation of temperatures into Monday.”
And the agency warned that: “The life-threatening cold temperatures and in combination with dangerous wind chills will create a potentially life-threatening hazard for travelers that become stranded, individuals that work outside, livestock and domestic pets. If you must travel or be out in the elements, prepare for extreme cold…”
On Friday, the US national weather authority had said that its storm warnings and advisories applied to some 200 million people and called the situation “one of the greatest extents of winter weather warnings and advisories ever.”
The Milwaukee and Buffalo airports remain closed due to the terrible weather while at least 20 people have died in the foul conditions, many of them freezing to death after becoming trapped in their vehicles, while Power Outage says that – although most of the country has, and millions of formerly lightless and heatless customers have reacquired, electricity service – some 260,000 users are still without power.
Seven people have died in New York state in weather-related incidents, four in Ohio, and other deaths have been reported in Kansas, Missouri, Vermont, Colorado and Wisconsin.
In Florida, the Sunshine State’s main airports continued to register flight cancellations and unusually low temperatures, including hard freezes in the north, across the weekend despite the fact that the storm appears to be weakening.
The online FlightAware flight tracker, which provides real time flight data and said that some 2,800 flights had been cancelled nationwide as a result of the storm, emphasized that Florida’s most important airport, the Orlando terminal, registered 45 incoming flight cancellations so far on Sunday, or 8 percent of the arriving flights.
The Tampa airport, too, registered 20 arrival cancellations, again 8 percent of the scheduled total.
Fort Lauderdale, just north of Miami, experienced 20 cancellations of arriving flights on Christmas Day, 7 percent of the scheduled total, while the Miami airport – despite that city’s normally tropical conditions – saw nine flights cancelled, about 1 percent of incoming passenger traffic.
In Miami, early on Sunday the temperature was pegged at 45 F (7 C), significantly below the average winter thermometer reading.
Given the overnight temperatures forecast to be below freezing in Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough Counties, local authorities decided to open shelters for the public over the Christmas weekend.
Florida officials advised the public not to try and rescue iguanas that might be found unconscious from the cold outdoors in yards and parking lots, warning people not to bring them inside to warm them up because of the havoc they might wreak once they thaw out.
The cold-blooded lizards that inhabit normally tropical South Florida, become torpid during freezing weather and sometimes tumble out of the trees in which they nest. Growing up to several feet in length and with sharp claws and spines on their bodies, they can cause an unwelcome – and perhaps even dangerous – Christmas surprise when they warm up indoors.