Three more weather-related fatalities were confirmed in neighbouring Kentucky – two from car accidents and one a homeless person who died of exposure.
Freezing rain and ice from a separate storm in the Pacific Northwest made travel treacherous there as well on Friday.
Border to border
From the Canadian to the Mexican border and coast to coast, some 240 million people in all were under winter weather warnings and advisories of some sort on Friday, according to the weather service.
The NWS said its map of existing or impending meteorological hazards “depicts one of the greatest extents of winter weather warnings and advisories ever”.
With energy systems across the country strained by rising demand for heat and storm-related damage to transmission lines, as many as 1.8 million US homes and businesses were left without power as of early Saturday morning, according to tracking site Poweroutage.us.
The disruptions upended daily routines and holiday plans for millions of Americans during one of the busiest travel periods of the year.
The American Automobile Association had estimated that 112.7 million people planned to venture 80 kilometres or more from home between Friday and January 2. But stormy weather heading into the weekend likely ended up keeping many of them at home.
Nearly 2000 US flights were cancelled on Saturday, with total delays of more than 4000, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware. More than 5000 flights were cancelled on Friday, the flight tracking said.
The city of Buffalo and its surrounding county on the edge of Lake Erie in western New York imposed a driving ban, and all three Buffalo-area border crossing bridges were closed to inbound traffic from Canada due to the weather.
The severe weather prompted authorities across the country to open warming centres in libraries and police stations while scrambling to expand temporary shelter for the homeless. The challenge was compounded by the influx of migrants crossing the US southern border by the thousands in recent weeks.
Bitter cold intensified by high winds extended through the Deep South to the US-Mexico border, plunging wind chill factors to -18 to -13 degrees in El Paso, Texas. Exposure to such conditions can cause frostbite within minutes.
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