Weather Updates | Blizzard warning in effect in Montana

GREAT FALLS, Mont. — A blizzard warning was in effect until the middle of Christmas Day in western Montana along the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains.

The National Weather Service warned that the eastern slope of Glacier National Park and the adjacent foothills and plains could see up to 8 inches (20.3 centimeters) of snow and winds up to 90 mph (145 kilometers per hour). The weather service advised traveling only in emergencies.

“Travel could be very difficult to impossible,” its warning said. “Widespread blowing snow will significantly reduce visibility, while drifting snow could lead to complete lane blockages.”

The Weather Service also warned that travel could be treacherous further to the west in Montana and in north-central Idaho, forecasting the possibility of both snow and ice.

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KEY DEVELOPMENTS:

— Winter storm blamed for at least 18 deaths, large power outages

— Blizzard conditions forecast along Rockies in western Montana

— Millions of power customer asked to cut use to avoid blackouts

— Tennessee Valley Authority ends rolling blackouts for 7 states

— Mississippi’s capital sees fluctuating water pressure

— Authorities in San Diego begin dropping migrants at bus stations

— Western New York residents scramble from homes to warmer places

— Unusual cold in Florida doesn’t stop Santas from surfing

— Frigid weather delays start of Texans-Titans game in Nashville

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PEDRO, Ohio — A utility worker has died while trying to restore power in southeastern Ohio, and people in Kentucky, Michigan and Wisconsin also died with much of the U.S. in the grip of a massive winter storm.

Across the country, officials have attributed at least 18 deaths to exposure, icy car crashes and other effects of the storm.

Buckeye Rural Electric Cooperative said in a statement that apprentice line worker Blake Rodgers, 22, died in “an electrical contact incident” near Pedro, near the state’s borders with both Kentucky and West Virginia. The utility said no further details were available.

In Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear warned people Saturday to avoid Interstate 71, which links Lousville to Cincinnati, Ohio, after a series of accidents since Thursday night. Beshear said Friday that one person died in a traffic accident attributed to the weather in western Kentucky and a homeless person died in Louisville.

In Lansing, Michigan, an 82-year-old woman died at a hospital after being found Friday morning curled up in the snow by a snowplow driver outside of the assisted living community where she lived, police reported. The temperature in the area Friday morning was about 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-12.2 Celsius).

A 57-year-old woman died Friday after falling through ice on the Rock River south of Janesville, Wisconsin, just north of the Illinois linr, WMTV reported. Authorities said multiple agencies were called for a water rescue but could not see the woman through the ice.

Officials in Buffalo reported a death in that city, along with two others in a suburb after crews couldn’t get to people’s homes when they had medical emergencies.

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Severe weather shelters in Portland, Oregon, distributed tarps and tents to people Saturday morning as the centers closed in warming weather.

Officials said more than 1,100 people sought warmth at five emergency severe weather shelters in Portland, including 900 at the Oregon Convention Center alone. Multnomah County spokesperson Julie Sullivan-Springhetti said at least 840 people spent the night.

The National Weather Service forecast area temperatures remaining above freezing, above the threshold local officials use to keep the shelters open.

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MONTPELIER, Vt. — About 260,000 electric customers across the six New England states remained without power Saturday afternoon, according to the www. poweroutages.us website.

The most outages were reported in Maine, with about 165,000 customers in the dark.

Some utilities warned it could be days before power is restored.

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HARRISBURG, Pa. — Utilities across the eastern half of the U.S. have asked their customers to cut back temporarily on their power use, warning them of rolling blackouts.

Pennsylvania-based PJM Interconnections issued such a warning for 65 million customers in 13 states, asking them to conserve electricity into Christmas morning. It said power plants are having difficulty operating in the freezing cold.

The company providing electricity to parts of northeastern Indiana and southwestern Michigan also asked customers to reduce power use because of extraordinary demands on its system. County road crews in parts of western Michigan were experiencing white-out conditions due to the snow blowing across roadways.

Meanwhile, Detroit-based DTE Energy said more than 23,000 lost power as the storm and freezing temperatures blew into Michigan, though it said about 80% had their power restored as of Saturday morning.

In Wisconsin, a request to cut energy use came Friday from a company that provides natural gas throughout the state. Milwaukee-based We Energies asked customers to drop their thermostats to 60 to 62 degrees Fahrenheit (15.6 to 16.7 Celsius) because a pipeline equipment failure temporarily cut the gas coming from one of its suppliers by 30%.

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Valley Authority has ended rolling blackouts that it said were necessary to meet record-setting electricity demands.

“We recognize that these planned temporary disruptions are a challenge, but it was needed to maintain grid stability for 10 million people across seven states,” TVA said in a statement at midday Saturday. “Thank you for doing your part, conserving energy, and helping us manage this extreme weather event.”

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JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi’s capital city of Jackson was experiencing “fluctuating water pressure” Saturday, with frigid weather hampering efforts to stabilize it.

“Both of our water plants are functioning, so crews are now working to determine what is causing the fluctuation,” said Melissa Payne, a city spokesperson.

Some residents in Mississippi’s capital city may temporarily experience low water pressure, officials warned.

The potential for further disruptions to Jackson’s water system comes just months after the city of about 150,000 residents lost water in late August.

The water system fell into crisis after flooding exacerbated longstanding problems in one of two water-treatment plants. In February 2021, tens of thousands of Jackson residents were without reliable running water for days after pipes froze.

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SAN DIEGO — U.S. authorities facing weather-related travel and capacity issues have started dropping off migrants in San Diego at bus stations, a rarity since nongovernment organizations built a robust supply of temporary housing in 2018.

The San Diego Rapid Response Network, a coalition that includes a Jewish Family Service shelter for 250 migrants, stopped taking people after weather snarled travel across the country.

“Due to the extreme weather conditions impacting outbound travel, our resources and the current infrastructure have been stretched to capacity,” the group said on its website, adding that it will “resume welcoming additional asylum seekers as capacity and weather conditions improve.”

It was unclear how many migrants had been released, and the Border Patrol didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday. San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond said Friday that he had been notified of 200 to be released in the city of San Diego and two suburbs.

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Deep snow, freezing temperatures and power outages in western New York sent people scrambling to get out of their houses and to churches, police stations and anywhere else with heat.

The National Guard was working to free stranded motorists and the Erie County executive was advising people against leaving their homes. First responders and emergency equipment could not get through to the hardest-hit places, especially Buffalo, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said on social media.

Poloncarz said ambulances needed more than three hours for a single trip to a hospital when they could get through the snow and large snow drifts, abandoned cars and downed power lines are slowing the progress of plows in clearing roads.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul called the storm in the area “life-threatening” and “one of the worst in history.”

“It’s essentially a category 3 hurricane with a bunch of snow mixed in. It’s been like that for the past 24 hours,” said Chief Timothy Carney of the Erie County Sheriff’s Office.

As of Saturday afternoon, about 49,000 customers in New York were out of power, according to www.poweroutage.us, more than half of them in western New York.

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COCOA BEACH, Fla. — For the surfing Santas off Florida’s central coast, the Atlantic Ocean was going to feel more like the North Pole than the Sunshine State.

Temperatures on Saturday morning plunged to around freezing, while freeze warnings were in place for at least half of the state.

Parts of the Florida Panhandle had wind chills that dipped into the single digits on Saturday morning, and interior parts of central Florida had temperatures plunging as low as 27 degrees Fahrenheit (-2.7 Celsius).

“It’s a frigid start to your #ChristmasEve across the area,” the National Weather Service in Tallahassee tweeted.

Despite the frigid temperature, the 14th annual Christmas Eve Surfing Santas festival was being held Saturday morning at Cocoa Beach on Florida’s Space Coast.

The event has grown from 10 surfers dressed in Santa costumes when it started in 2009 to 600 participants on surfboards, boogie boards and paddle boards in years past. In anticipation of the frigid weather, a beachside restaurant planned to distribute free hot cocoa to the expected thousands of spectators, according to organizers.

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NASHVILLE — Extreme cold and power outages in the region delayed the kickoff of the Houston Texans’ visit to the Tennessee Titans by an hour after the Nashville mayor asked the hometown team to postpone the game.

The Titans also said the team was working to cut all nonessential power around Nissan Stadium even with gates open for fans.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper wrote on social media asking everyone, especially nonessential businesses, to cut back their power usage.

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MONTPELIER, Vt. — The massive, wild winter storm that has gripped much of the U.S. has been blamed for deaths in Vermont, New York, Colorado, Missouri and Kansas.

Multiple highways were closed and crashes claimed at least eight lives, officials said. Four people died in a massive pileup involving some 50 vehicles on the Ohio Turnpike. A Kansas City, Missouri, driver was killed Thursday after skidding into a creek, and three others died Wednesday in separate crashes on icy northern Kansas roads.

A 51-year-old Vermont woman died Friday after a tree in her back yard broke off in high winds and fell on her in the town of Castleton, in west-central Vermont near New York. Police said she died at a hospital after the Friday morning accident.

In New York, two people died in their homes in the Buffalo suburb of Cheektowaga on Friday when emergency crews could not reach them in time to treat their medical emergencies, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said Saturday.

Police in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said they found the body of a person who appeared to be homeless during this week’s winter storm. Officers found the 42-year-old man’s body outside near the Citadel Mall at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, The Gazette reported.

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