December 23, 2022 winter storm news

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'Wow': CNN reporter shows visibility conditions in Buffalo
01:49 - Source: CNN

What we covered here

  • Severe weather across the US: Millions of residents have been impacted as a major winter storm brings bitter cold, blizzard conditions and flooding to multiple parts of the country. Officials in four states have reported at least nine deaths during the storm.
  • Travel impacts: More than 5,300 flights have been canceled across the US for Friday. President Biden urged Americans to stay off the roads in inclement weather as some states experience blizzard conditions and road closures.
  • Coldest Christmas: The cold will stick around for Christmas weekend, making this the coldest Christmas in roughly 40 years for parts of the Plains and Midwest.
  • In the storm’s path? You can track the storm here. And view our lite site here if you’re in an area of low connectivity.
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We’ve wrapped up our live storm coverage for the day. You can read more here, or scroll through the updates below for more information.

Traveler sad but not surprised flight home was canceled as storm forces many to spend Christmas alone

A passenger checks flight departures showing cancellations at Laguardia Airport, Friday December 23, in New York.

As thousands of flights have been canceled across the country due to severe winter weather, many Americans are now unable to spend the holidays with their families.

Shane Phillips is one of those who will be spending Christmas alone this year, due to a canceled flight.

Phillips told CNN he was set to fly from Los Angeles to Seattle to visit family, but when he woke up Friday morning his Alaska Airlines flight had been canceled.

It would have been Phillips’ first time back to Washington state since before the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I would say they’re upset,” he said of his family. “But they’re the ones experiencing the crazy weather, so they understand,” he said.

Phillips says he feels mostly disappointment but not a lot of surprise.

“I knew the weather was supposed to be bad, but I was hoping I’d get in before the freezing rain hit,” he said.

Phillips’ family lives about two hours north of Seattle, so if he did make it to the airport, he says he could’ve been stranded.

“They totally shut down transit, so I’m not sure how I would’ve left the airport,” Phillips said.

Other airlines had flights available for Saturday, but Phillips said they were priced at $1,000 one-way, “which is just too much,” he said.

“I still wish I was there,” Phillip said, adding that he will “just have to try and visit another time of year.”

Phillips says he will make the best of spending Christmas alone – as he’s now going to attend a friend’s holiday party he would have missed if he’d made it to Seattle.

At least nine people have died across the United States during severe winter weather

Kansas City fire department rescue personnel work to recover a minivan that went into Brush Creek in Kansas City, Missouri, on Thursday, December 22.

At least nine people have died across the United States as severe winter weather continues to impact millions of Americans.

Here is the latest from officials in each state reporting storm-related deaths:

  • Ohio: Four people have died as a result of weather-related car crashes, according to Gov. Mike DeWine. Ohio State Highway Patrol said multiple people were injured Friday in a series of crashes involving about 50 cars on the Ohio Turnpike.
  • Kentucky: Three people have died in the state. Gov. Andy Beshear announced two deaths Friday morning, saying one person had been “housing insecure” and the other killed in a crash. An additional death was confirmed in Montgomery County due to a vehicle accident.
  • Missouri: One person died after they apparently lost control on icy roads, the Kansas City Police Department said Friday. The vehicle landed upside down in a creek and sunk into the frozen water, officials said.
  • Kansas: One person died in a crash, the Kansas Highway Patrol told CNN on Friday.

CNN’s Amanda Musa, Caroll Alvarado, Raja Razek and Rebekah Riess contributed reporting.

Whiteout conditions prompt driving bans and thousands of power outages in New York state

Officials in New York have issued a driving ban for Erie, Genesee, Niagara, and Orleans counties due to severe weather.

Misdemeanor tickets for people who disobey the travel ban will be enforced, according to Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. 

Whiteout conditions have blanketed roads and Poloncarz said most tow trucks are unable to go out due to dangerous conditions. 

Two utilities serving Erie County, the National Grid and New York State Electric and Gas, reported a total of about 30,000 power outages there, the county executive said at a 4 p.m. press conference Friday.

“Emergency resources will be deployed, but they’re not going to be deployed in the usual, quick fashion that we’ve become accustomed to,” Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Daniel Neaverth said.

He added that the county’s 911 system had received 1400 to 1500 calls in a short period of time.

More than 5,000 flights have been canceled nationwide Friday

Air travelers faced a staggering number of flight cancellations Friday as winter weather has now caused more than 5,000 in airports across the US.

Seattle, Chicago O’Hare, New York LaGuardia, Denver and Detroit continue to lead the way in cancellations, according to data from the flight tracking site FlightAware.

At airports in Cleveland, Ohio and Grand Rapids, Michigan, more than 70% of flights have been canceled. The Buffalo airport in New York state was shut down entirely. Portland International Airport had about two-thirds of its flights canceled. And airports in Chicago, Dayton, Seattle and Sioux Falls each have had more than half of their flights canceled.

FlightAware also shows more than 8,400 delayed flights.

At least 1 person dead after crashes involving as many as 50 cars on Ohio Turnpike, officials say

A multi-vehicle crash is seen on the Ohio Turnpike on December 23.

At least one person was killed in a series of crashes on an Ohio highway Friday, a law enforcement official said, and “weather is considered to be a factor.”

Multiple people were also hurt in the crashes on the Ohio Turnpike (Interstate 80), said Sgt. Ryan E. Purpura of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. Around 50 vehicles were involved.

The crashes came as a severe winter weather system passes through the state, and Purpura said the inclement conditions are believed to have played a part.

Troopers from Purpura’s department are helping people who were involved in the crashes, which occurred in the eastbound lanes between state Route 53 and state Route 4 in the Groton Township of Erie County.

“Buses are being utilized to take people from their vehicles to a local facility so they can stay warm,” Purpura said in a statement to CNN.

The Ohio Turnpike is currently closed in both directions. Authorities are diverting eastbound traffic at exit 91 and diverting westbound traffic at exit 118, Purpura said.

Erie County is halfway between Toledo and Cleveland along Lake Erie.

Tips for staying safe in cold weather

Experts are encouraging those in the winter storm’s path to stay safe as freezing temperatures impact road conditions and threaten the health of vulnerable groups. 

American Automobile Association spokesperson Aixa Diaz told CNN’s Kristin Fisher on Friday the organization is “very worried” that there will be more car crashes as the storm continues to move east.

She urged drivers in certain impacted areas to “stay off the roads completely.”

“If you’re in an area where the weather is not supposed to be that bad, still prepare for winter storm conditions anyway,” she said.

Should motorists find themselves on the road and in need of assistance, Diaz said there are ways to stay ready, including keeping an emergency preparation kit in the vehicle.

“Make sure you have your cellphone charger in the vehicle so that you have your phone fully charged in case you do have to call for help, in case you do have to call AAA,” she said. “We also suggest having an ice scraper in your vehicle, also some reflectors in case you have to wait in your vehicle for a long time.”
“The best advice though is just to avoid it altogether. It’s not what you want to hear. This is terrible timing for holiday travelers but the reality is: This is a very dangerous storm and this is not just a little bit of snow, white Christmas. This is something serious,” she added.

The frigid weather could also impact others who are most vulnerable to cold temperatures, according to CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

She told Fisher that infants and the elderly “don’t regulate their body temperatures the way that other folks do.” She added that since “cold puts a stress on the heart,” those with heart disease should be careful. Cold can also aggravate asthma conditions and other lung diseases, she said.

“Even if your asthma is under control, be aware the cold could make it worse,” Cohen said. “You should have your medications at the ready.”

She encouraged people to dress infants “more warmly than you would dress yourself,” to check in on the elderly, and to avoid alcohol and caffeine, as the beverages “do not help your body deal with the cold.”

Migrants in El Paso have trouble finding shelter amid uncommonly cold temperatures

Migrants warm themselves by a fire next to the US-Mexico border fence on December 22 in El Paso, Texas.

As freezing temperatures from a coast-to-coast winter storm arrive in El Paso, Texas, some migrants who haven’t turned themselves in to border agents or officials after crossing the US-Mexico border are having a difficult time finding shelter.

El Paso is in the midst of a declared state of emergency over thousands of migrants living in unsafe conditions, as a former President Donald Trump-era border policy keeping migrants out of the US remains in flux amid court proceedings.

The city has opened government-run shelters at its convention center, hotels and several unused schools, but is unable to accept migrants who don’t have documentation from Customs and Border Protection, said El Paso city spokesperson Laura Cruz Acosta.

The city must follow state and federal policies, which she said require migrants to have documentation in order to receive shelter at government-run facilities.

If undocumented migrants show up at government-run sites, they are connected with Customs and Border Protection to start the process of turning themselves in, or are connected with shelters run by nongovernmental organizations on the ground, she said.

As dangerously cold temperatures arrive this week, US border officials are warning migrants seeking to enter the country of the dire weather.

“Extremely cold, below freezing temperatures are expected along the Mexico and United States border during the next several days,” Hugo Carmona, acting associate chief of US Border Patrol Operations, said in a video statement. “Do not risk your life and that of your loved ones trying to cross the river or the desert. Help avoid human death and tragedy, stay home or remain in a safe shelter. This is a warning of extreme importance.”

Read more here.

It could be the coldest Christmas Eve on record in Atlanta and Philadelphia, weather service says

Many locations in the eastern US are in for their coldest Christmas Eve in decades.

Atlanta, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Tallahassee, are all forecast to have their coldest high temperature ever recorded on Dec. 24, according to the National Weather Service.

Washington, DC, is forecast to see its second-coldest Christmas Eve, only behind 1989. In New York, it will be the coldest Christmas Eve since 1906. Chicago is expecting temperatures to rebound above zero, but the city will still experience its coldest Christmas Eve since 1983.

Many parts of Florida will experience the peak of their cold on Christmas Day. It will be the coldest Dec. 25 since 1983 for Miami, Tampa, Orlando and West Palm Beach, according to the weather service. 

Temperatures in the East will slowly moderate over the weekend, but it will still be the third-coldest Christmas Day on record for Atlanta and coldest since 1989, according to forecasters. New York and Washington, DC, will each experience their coldest Christmas Day since 2000.

About 1.3 million customers are without power

Utility workers restore power to homes in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, on December 23.

About 1.3 million customers in the United States are experiencing power outages amid winter weather and frigid temperatures, according to

Here’s a look at the power outages by region:

  • Mid-Atlantic: 463,411
  • New England: 376,589
  • Southeast: 167,233
  • South: 148,094
  • Great Lakes: 80,271
  • Pacific: 45,684
  • Midwest: 8,389
  • Mountain: 1,720

Maine, North Carolina, Virginia, New York and Pennsylvania have the most outages right now.

New York governor warns of "epic, statewide hazard": Here's where things stand across the state

A man wades through flood waters to attempt to retrieve his truck along the Hudson River in Piermont, New York, on December 23.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul warned residents about the “epic, statewide hazard” of winter weather this weekend.

“I called it a kitchen sink storm because it is throwing everything at us but the kitchen sink,” Hochul said at a press conference Friday afternoon. “We’ve had ice, flooding, snow, freezing temperatures and everything that mother nature could wallop at us this weekend.”

High winds and rain have already been reported across the state, and now officials are bracing for heavy snow and record-setting wind speeds, the state’s transportation commissioner said at the press conference.

There have been more than 100,000 power outages across the state, with about 27,000 in Erie County and 15,000 in Monroe County, Hochul said.

“If you do lose power, it is going to be dangerously cold,” said Jackie Bray, the state’s homeland security and emergency services commissioner. Bray told residents dealing with outages to seek out warming shelters provided by some counties. 

Impacts by region: “We are seeing incredibly dangerous, hazardous, life-threatening high winds, blinding snowstorms, in real-time hitting Western New York,” Hochul said, explaining that the region has been hit by both the national storm and a lake-effect storm.

She said winds around the Buffalo Skyway have neared 80 mph — higher than those in the blizzard of 1977.

Parts of Long Island and New York City have seen coastal flooding of up to 3 feet, which is starting to abate, although more rain is expected in the area, Hochul said.

Bray said the main hazard in the city will be the low temperatures, windy conditions, and ice, with a flash freeze expected later today.

Hochul said the Hudson Valley, Capital Region, North Country and Southern Tier have seen rain and high winds, with snow also reported in the latter two regions, but major issues haven’t been reported.

Transportation impacts: A flash freeze has already hit the western part of the state and is expected to impact eastern areas, too, prompting widespread travel restrictions, Hochul said.

“The roads are going to be like an ice skating rink, and your tires cannot handle this,” she said.

Hochul said in some areas, like Erie County, the commercial vehicle driving ban has been expanded to all roads, and certain roads have hard closures.

“We really want everyone to stay off the roads,” Bray said. “The roads are going to be icy statewide. That’s going to be through tomorrow, at least, before any of that abates.”

Some roads and rail lines that closed Friday due to flooding have reopened as water recedes, the officials said. Bray urged travelers to take public transportation instead of driving, saying the weather shouldn’t disrupt those transit options any further.

Hochul said she does not anticipate closures to New York City airports, although high winds could potentially change that.

NYC officials warn of single-digit temperatures, flooding, wind gusts and black ice

New York City officials said frigid, single-digit temperatures and 60 mile-an-hour wind gusts are expected to hit the city later today.

So far, the winter storm has caused flooding in parts of the city and — as temperatures are dipping sharply, black ice is becoming a bigger concern, New York City Emergency Management Commissioner Zachary Iscol said.

“Now we’re starting to prepare the city for the next phase, which is going to be a precipitous drop in temperature, going down to the low teens, single digits over the weekend,” Iscol said at a news conference Friday. “… That leads to potential for black ice, because the amount of precipitation and water on the ground, that we also need to prepare for, in addition to high winds, up to 60 mile-per-hour gusts later today.”

Planning for the storm started 96 hours ago, according to Iscol, with agency heads staying in constant communication with Mayor Eric Adams, who is not in New York City and is taking some days off, according to First Deputy Mayor Lorraine Grillo. 

The City of New York Department of Sanitation has so far put down 20 million pounds of salt, with 700 salt spreaders operating all over the city. 

The New York City Police Department has opened their traffic management center where they will monitor for power outages for traffic lights. NYPD Emergency Service Unit trucks are strategically located in parts of the city that are prone to flooding, Iscol said. 

Con Edison has flown in 600 extra workers to help deal with potential power outage issues, with extra vehicles also out on the road, Iscol said. 

City officials are getting briefed twice daily from the National Weather Service and using that guidance to plan their strategy, Iscol said.

Officials are also launching the Code Blue initiative, which is designed to get homeless people off the streets when the temperature drops to dangerous levels, Iscol said. 

The city has also opened up two service centers in Queens to help with potential issues, Iscol said. Even hotels in parts of the city have already been blocked off in case the storm forces people from their homes, he added. 

Iowa sports reporter reacts to viral snarky weather reports

A local sports reporter in Iowa went viral for getting “crankier and crankier” on the air after being asked to cover the weather.

In a video that’s racked up over 5 million views on Twitter, Mark Woodley of KWWL-TV said, “What better time to ask the sports guy to come in about 5 hours earlier than he would normally wake up, go stand out in the wind and the snow and the cold and tell other people not to do the same?”

“Tune in for the next couple hours to watch me get progressively crankier and crankier,” he quipped in the video mashup.

Woodley told CNN’s Kristin Fisher that his responses on air were “just a bit of who I am.”

“You know, on air, I love to give my coworkers grief. … I was running on about three hours of sleep at that time, and some of the things maybe I wouldn’t have said if I had slept for eight hours, but, you know, it is what it is,” he said.  

But Woodley said he probably won’t be changing his beat from sports to weather any time soon.  

“If I’m asked, sure, I’ll do it, but that would be my absolute nightmare. So I hope to God they do not ask me to ever do that again,” he said.

Flooding, power outages and blizzard conditions: Here's what you need to know about the winter storm

A delivery truck drives through floodwaters on the Portland, Maine, waterfront on December 23.

A severe winter weather system is lashing states throughout the country.

If you’re just now catching up, here are some of the storm’s latest developments:

Death toll rises: In Kentucky, at least three people have died, Gov. Andy Beshear’s office confirmed. Beshear confirmed two of the deaths in a Friday morning news conference, and a spokesperson for the governor told CNN a short time later that the death toll had risen to three.

Freezing temperatures: Cities in New York, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota and Illinois are experiencing blizzard conditions with strong blowing snow and low visibility in some areas. In Texas, the entire state is experiencing below-freezing temperatures, according to weather observations.

Power outages: More than 1 million customers are without power across the US. A utility in Memphis, Tennessee, was able to rescind plans for rolling blackouts but urged residents to conserve electricity as much as possible. View outage totals by region here.

Flooding: Storm surge has caused flooding in many coastal areas across the country. In Maine, police are conducting water rescues. In New York, flooding shut down train service on the Long Island Rail Road. And according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Lake Ontario could see waves of up to 37 feet high on Friday evening while Lake Erie is also experiencing “rapidly pushing water levels past flood stage.”

Travel impacts: Among Thursday, Friday, and advance cancellations for Saturday, about 7,000 pre-Christmas flights have already been canceled nationwide. At Buffalo Niagara International Airport in New York, all evening flights have been canceled Friday due to hazardous conditions.

Severe winter weather system causes at least 3 deaths in Kentucky, governor says 

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks during a press conference on December 23.

Three Kentuckians have died because of the severe winter weather system hitting the state, Gov. Andy Beshear’s office said. 

Beshear confirmed two of the deaths in a Friday morning news conference, and a spokesperson for the governor told CNN a short time later that the death toll had risen to three.

One death was the result of a vehicle accident in western Kentucky. Another was attributed to a car crash in Mount Sterling, east of Lexington in Montgomery County.

The third death was of a “housing insecure” person in Louisville, Beshear told reporters.

Later, Louisville Metro Police Department released details about one of the three victims, telling CNN Friday that the body of an adult man was found outside in the area of Parthenia Avenue in Louisville Thursday night. The person remains unidentified at this time.

“There are no obvious signs of trauma and LMPD is awaiting autopsy results from the Medical Examiner to determine the exact cause of death,” LMPD said in a statement. 

Officials shut down Interstate 64 in both directions in Scott County due to multiple collisions around the 69-mile marker, Beshear announced. 

The Kentucky National Guard and Kentucky State Police have also been working a major accident on Interstate 71 that has caused a major backup all morning, Beshear said. 

There are currently 20,000 homes without power across Kentucky, Beshear tweeted Friday morning.  

In photos: Winter storm and freezing temperatures impact the US

massive winter storm battered the US on Friday with frigid temperatures, high wind, snow and flooding, knocking out power to over a million customers and derailing holiday plans from coast to coast.

The storm — which is expected to intensify throughout Friday as it barrels east — is making for grim road conditions with poor visibility and ice-covered streets.

Here are some scenes from the storm as it makes the nation shiver:

Amanda Kelly cleans off snow and ice from her car on Friday, Dec. 23, in Columbus, Ohio. 
Cars drive in whiteout conditions in Orchard Park, New York, on Dec. 23.
Snow collects on a bison at Longfield Farm in Goshen, Kentucky, on Dec. 23. 
Stones are removed from a road in Westport, Massachusetts, after storm surge caused flooding in many coastal areas, on Dec. 23. 

See more photos here.

Here's what whiteout conditions look like right now in Buffalo

Even though Buffalo is no stranger to winter weather, conditions may not improve in the western New York city until Christmas morning, as a blizzard warning is in effect until Sunday at 7 a.m. ET.

CNN’s Polo Sandoval illustrated the low-visibility issues, as he couldn’t been seen until walking close to the camera as snow and wind whistled around him.

“This is not a massive snowmaker, believe it or not. It’s the winds that are whipping around, all the snow that has fallen and then adding to that, that flash freezing that we will continue to see throughout the night as temperatures continue to plummet,” Sandoval reported.

Watch his report here:

02:46 - Source: CNN