Arctic weather brings misery to parts of US as death toll rises to 55

20 January 2024, 18:44

Migrant Camp Randalls Island
Migrant Camp Randalls Island. Picture: PA

A huge swathe of the US was under a wind chill advisory, from parts of Montana all the way into central Florida.

Arctic weather has brought misery to much of the US on Saturday, especially for people unaccustomed to such bitter cold in places like Memphis where residents were urged to boil water after freezing temperatures broke water mains.

The bracing weekend weather follows a series of storms over the past week that are blamed for at least 55 deaths around the country, many of them involving hypothermia or road accidents.

At the Four Way Grill in Memphis, owner Patrice Bates Thompson said the water problems have closed their soul food kitchen for days.

“This is our staple, and this is what basically drives the force of my family financially,” Mr Thompson told Fox-13 Memphis. “We depend on business, and we have been at home.”

Winter weather in Philadelphia
The snowy conditions are expected to last until at least Sunday (Tyger Williams/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

So many water mains broke in Memphis that water pressure fell throughout the city and the water supply appeared contaminated.

On Friday, Memphis Light, Gas & Water urged all of its more than 400,000 customers to boil water for drinking or teeth-brushing, and while some 50 ruptures were repaired, still more emerged.

The utility asked people to report leaks at homes and unoccupied buildings to help them restore pressure.

A huge swathe of the US was under a wind chill advisory, from parts of Montana all the way into central Florida.

The wind made it feel like minus 26C in Iowa City on Saturday, and overnight wind chills hovered around zero in Oklahoma City, where David Overholser sought shelter at the non-profit Homeless Alliance.

“Being 63 and from Florida originally, I don’t like cold. I can’t handle it,” Mr Overholser told The Oklahoman. “It’s been very, very rough and painful and I just, you know, try to hang on one day, one hour at a time… it’s definitely scary.”

White House in the snow
A worker removes snow from the White House driveway in Washington, DC (AP)

Wind chills dipped to minus 28C early on Saturday in Vermont, where the Stowe Mountain Resort urged hardy skiers to be cautious.

“Bust out all the stuff you need to hang on the mountain safely, take frequent warm up breaks inside, and keep a close eye on each other for signs of frostbite,” the resort warned on its website.

In West Virginia, the weather service said some regions could see up to 10cm of additional snow on Saturday, with winds gusting to 40mph and wind chill driving down temperatures as low as minus 29C.

And in upstate New York, snow-shovellers answered another call by the Buffalo Bills American football team to clear Highmark Stadium for Sunday’s divisional round play-off game against the Kansas City Chiefs after the city was smothered by 5ft of snow in five days.

Snow was tapering off in other parts of the North East after blanketing a large area including Washington and New York City.

“It might seem weird after the warm winter we were having up until a week ago, but we’ve actually caught up to near normal snowfall to this point in the season for much of our region,” a weather service statement said.

Tennessee alone recorded 19 deaths, including a 25-year-old man found dead on the floor of a mobile home in Lewisburg after a space heater overturned and turned off, said Bob Johnson, chief deputy for the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office.

“There was ice on the walls in there,” Mr Johnson said.

On the West Coast, more freezing rain was forecast on Saturday in the Columbia River Gorge and the area was expected to remain near or below freezing through at least Sunday night. Trees and power lines already coated with ice could topple if they get more, the National Weather Service warned.

“Stay safe out there over the next several days as our region tries to thaw out,” the weather service said. “Chunks of falling ice will remain a hazard as well.”

Thousands have been without power since last weekend in parts of Oregon’s Willamette Valley because of storm damage. Despite work by repair crews, more than 41,000 customers were without electricity in the state early on Saturday, according to the website

A potential thaw is not expected until next week when the forecast suggests above-average temperatures across most of the country, according to the National Weather Service.

By Press Association

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