US storm death toll above 50, thousands more flights cancelled, delayed

Washington, Dec 26 (EFE).- At least 50 people are known to have died in recent days across the United States due to the impact of the frigid winter storm dubbed Elliott, which has dumped heavy snow and brought severe winds to a large part of the country, plunging thermometers to their lowest Christmas holiday levels in decades.

The area hardest hit by the storm has been the northwest section of New York state, where authorities on Monday raised to 27 the number of storm-related deaths, the bodies of the victims having been found in homes, trapped vehicles and out on the streets.

The city of Buffalo, New York, which borders on Canada and where people are accustomed to the cold, has completely shut down due to the heavy snowfall, and its airport remains closed.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said that this has been the most devastating storm in memory for the area and has called upon the public to avoid traveling anywhere by road.

Besides New York, deaths from the cold or road accidents have been registered in Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Wisconsin, according to local media.

In Ohio, four people died and several were injured in a large road accident involving some 50 vehicles.

The area covered by the storm has been almost unprecedented, extending from the Great Lakes down to the Rio Grande.

More than 200 million US residents have been under some kind of storm warning or advisory and temperatures have fallen far below normal from the Rocky Mountains east to the Appalachians.

The National Weather Service said that a large portion of the country will continue to experience frigid conditions on Monday but things will begin to moderate on Tuesday.

The NWS warned that in some areas it will remain “dangerous” to travel by road due to the snow, but it predicted that conditions will improve within a few days.

Elliott has caused thousands of flight delays and the cancellation of about 20 percent of the scheduled flights nationwide on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, when tens of thousands of people were traveling to spend the holiday weekend with their families.

In several cities along the east coast and even down as far south as Florida thermometers plunged to lows not seen since the Christmas holidays of 1983.

New York City experienced -10.5 C (13 F) on Christmas Day, a low not seen since 1872.

In Washington DC, the temperature stood at -10 C (14 F), the coldest Christmas in the nation’s capital since 1983, and thermometers in Tampa, Florida, fell to 0 C (32 F), something that has not happened since 1966.

At the worst point in the storm, reports are that 1.7 million customers were without electricity nationwide.

In Miami, the temperature fell to 10 C (50 F), temperatures very much below the average for this time of year, while in Jacksonville, the temperature was at 3 C (38 F) and in Ocala the thermometer stood at 0 C (32 F), at least during the daylight hours.

The low temperatures motivated Florida authorities to open shelters for the homeless and residents without electricity in Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough Counties.

The Orlando airport saw 55 flights cancelled on Monday, while the Tampa air hub saw 30 cancellations, Fort Lauderdale had 26 and Miami had 13.

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.”

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