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A dangerous storm disrupts travel and knocks out power across the U.S.

A winter storm rolls through Amherst, N.Y., on Saturday. Power has been knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses across the country.
Jeffrey T. Barnes
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AP
A winter storm rolls through Amherst, N.Y., on Saturday. Power has been knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses across the country.

Updated December 24, 2022 at 5:01 PM ET

The massive, deadly winter storm bringing whiteout blizzards, stinging winds and frigid temps well below average to much of the U.S. continues to cause Christmas weekend travel havoc, power outages to hundreds of thousands and warnings from officials about potentially life-threatening conditions.

The National Weather Service Weather Prediction Center said weekend "temperatures will be 25 to 35 degrees below average from east of the Rockies to the Appalachians." Two-thirds of the eastern portion of the country is expected to experience sub-freezing low temperatures on Saturday evening, while parts of the region will be dealing with anywhere from 5 to 28 inches of snowfall, according to the NWS.

The weather forecast agency warned of dangerous wind chills across central and eastern parts of the U.S., and said the severe weather "will create a potentially life-threatening hazard for travelers that become stranded, individuals that work outside," livestock and pets.

Detroit firefighters try to remove ice from their fire hoses while fighting a warehouse fire on Friday.
Matthew Hatcher / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Detroit firefighters try to remove ice from their fire hoses while fighting a warehouse fire on Friday.

The NWS also forecast lake-effect snow downwind from the Great Lakes as well as "heavy mixed precipitation to impact the Pacific Northwest and the Northern High Plains" over the weekend.

At least six people were reportedly killed in vehicle crashes, with at least four dead in a massive pileup on the Ohio Turnpike involving about 50 vehicles. In Washington state, several major highways were shut down after freezing rain created "extreme weather conditions including avalanche danger," according to the National Weather Service.

A woman walks along Chicago's Michigan Avenue as she braves Friday's frigid weather.
Kamil Krzaczynski / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
A woman walks along Chicago's Michigan Avenue as she braves Friday's frigid weather.

The storm, spanning from the Great Lakes to Texas and from the Northwest to New England, subjected about 60% of the U.S population, or more than 200 million people, to winter weather advisories or warnings on Friday.

"Mother Nature threw the kitchen sink at us this time," New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said at an emergency center in New York City's Queens borough on Saturday morning. "I'm fully expecting to see the kitchen sink fall out of the sky because we've been hit with everything from wind and flash freeze and unprecedented velocity of wind. As well as the snow, ice and flooding."

More than 8,000 residents in New Jersey and New York were without power after the storm hit on Dec. 22 and 23. Four families from the Queens borough were displaced from their homes, according to Gothamist.

The arctic blast also brought conditions to parts of the South not seen in a quarter century. In Nashville, temperatures fell below zero on Friday for the first time since 1996.

More than 700,000 customers were still experiencing electricity outages across the U.S. Saturday afternoon, according to PowerOutage.us.

WPLN's Blake Farmer reported that as the front hit, parts of the South experienced wind chills of minus 20 degrees, and gusting winds knocked out power to thousands of homes across Tennessee and Kentucky. Emergency responders asked people in the region to stay home if possible.

Meanwhile, WPLN's Paige Pfleger reported that plunging temperatures are putting pressure on a power grid not accustomed to this cold, and that the Tennessee Valley Authority has asked local utilities to cut their electricity use. Customers in Nashville will experience 10-minute outages every few hours, until the power load stabilizes.

Scott Aaronson, vice president of security and preparedness at the Edison Electric Institute, a trade association for power companies, said that getting the power restored in weather like this is a significant challenge.

"Sometimes accessing these areas can be really challenging with downed power lines, with downed trees, with very icy roads. ... Crews cannot go up in bucket trucks if the wind is higher than 35 miles an hour," Aaronson said. "And so those combination of things will limit the ability of crews to get out there and get the power back on."

In New Jersey, heavy rains and high winds downed power lines and sent floodwaters surging as high as 9 feet along the coast. Interior locations along the Hudson River also flooded.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul asked people in the state to wait until Sunday to travel because road conditions would remain dangerous through Saturday.

"This is a life-threatening dangerous event," Hochul said Friday afternoon at a news conference in Albany. "Protect yourselves, protect your families. Do not travel until the roads are reopened, that you know it's safe."

The storm is causing havoc for holiday travelers across the U.S, with more than 2,400 flight cancellations and 5,700 flights delayed as of Saturday afternoon, according to FlightAware. That follows nearly 6,000 cancellations and more than 11,000 delayed flights on Friday.

FlightAware's Kathleen Bangs said Friday that the average delay was 68 minutes and delays have been stranding passengers.

"So that, unfortunately, really affects anyone who's got a connecting flight, and we're going to see a lot of people missing connecting flights with these long delay times," Bangs said.

Reporting from Bruce Konviser, WPLN's Paige Pfleger and Blake Farmer, NPR's Mary Louise Kelly, Giulia Heyward and David Schaper and the Associated Press was used in this report.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Don Clyde