Winter storm to bring snow, winds, ice and life-threatening chill to US, forecasters warn

By JIM SALTER and CLAIRE RUSH Associated Press

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Brutally cold weather could prove a deadly challenge Saturday amid a continuing wave of Arctic storms that has hammered much of the country with blinding snow, freezing rain and whipping winds.

Governors from New York to Louisiana declared states of emergency ahead of predicted snow and bone-chilling temperatures. In St. Louis, the National Weather Service warned of rare and “life-threatening” cold. Sub-zero low temperature records could fall Saturday and Sunday in the northern and central Plains amid heavy snow, strong winds and blizzards.

“Including wind chill, temperatures will fall below minus 30 over a large area running from the northern Rockies to northern Kansas, with minus 50 possible across the Dakotas,” the NWS said in a statement Saturday.

About 185,000 customers were without power in Michigan on Saturday, and 91,000 customers in Wisconsin lost utility service, according to Outages were also reported from Virginia to New Hampshire.

The fierce weather blitzed campaign schedules in Iowa, the leadoff GOP caucus state. With a blizzard warning covering most of the state, Nikki HaleyRon DeSantis and former President Donald Trump all shuffled their schedules ahead of Monday’s presidential vote.

Near-record cold in Kansas City will make for a frigid NFL playoff game Saturday night, when the Chiefs host Miami. Fans will be allowed to bring in blankets and first-aid stations were set up at Arrowhead Stadium. On Sunday, fans in Buffalo will contend with up to a foot (30 centimeters) of snow and fierce winds as the Bills host Pittsburgh.

Some areas of the Northeast had flooding concerns. Emergency responders helped evacuate some residents from their homes in Paterson, New Jersey, early Friday as the Passaic River started overflowing its banks. The new storm, combined with one earlier in the week, created flooding worries in Maine and New Hampshire, too.

Black ice from freezing rain caused wrecks and brought Kansas City, Missouri, to a standstill.

At the Double Cross Cattle Company, a ranch south of Roberts, Montana, Tyson Ropp used an axe on Friday morning to chop through inches of ice covering a trough so that his bulls could get to their water.

“It’s just Montana,” he added with a shrug.

But the weather won’t spare any part of the country this weekend, forecasters said.

In the county that includes Portland, Oregon, which is more used to wintery rain than ice and snow, officials declared a weather emergency and opened severe weather shelters for the homeless. The county and non-profit groups this week distributed thousands of jackets, gloves, ponchos and other items.

In California, a warning of high avalanche danger was issued for parts of the Sierra Nevada, including the Lake Tahoe area, where an avalanche at a ski resort killed one man on Wednesday. The same was true in Idaho, where a man was presumed dead in an avalanche Thursday.

“EVERY state in the US has an active NWS watch, warning, or advisory,” the NWS announced Friday as it posted a color-coded map that showed portions of states under threat from storms, winds, floods, blizzards and avalanches.

Chicago was expecting several inches of snow through the weekend, with wind gusts to 50 mph (80 kph) and wind chills as low as minus 15 degrees F (minus 26 C) that could cause frostbite to exposed skin in just 15 minutes, the weather service warned.

Authorities said a suburban Chicago man had died of exposure, apparently becoming the first cold-related death of the season. The man, whose identity wasn’t released, was found Thursday in the suburb of Schiller Park, the Cook County medical examiner’s office said.

Advocates worried for the growing population of migrants sent up to Chicago from the U.S.-Mexico border — more than 26,000 have arrived since last year. By Friday, dozens were staying in eight parked “warming buses” to avoid sleeping outside while they await space in city-run shelters.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker released a letter Friday pleading with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to stop sending migrants to Chicago during the dangerous weather.

“At least pause these transports to save lives,” the letter said.

In a reply, Abbott refused to stop what he called “voluntary” trips “until President Biden steps up and does his job to secure the border.”

Abbott urged Texans to get ready for a chill with ice on the way Monday.