Millions of people hunkered down against a deep freeze on Sunday to ride out the freezing storm that has killed at least 24 people across the US and is expected to claim more, after trapping some residents inside houses with heaping snow drifts and knocking out power to several hundred thousand homes and businesses.
The scope of the storm has been nearly unprecedented, stretching from the Great Lakes near Canada to the Rio Grande along the border with Mexico.
About 60% of the US population faced some sort of winter weather advisory or warning, and temperatures plummeted drastically below normal from east of the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachians, the National Weather Service said.
Some 1,346 domestic and international flights were cancelled as of early Sunday, according to the tracking site FlightAware.
With snow swirling down untouched and impassable streets, forecasters warned that an additional one to two feet of snow was possible in some areas until early Monday amid wind gusts of 40 mph.
Two people died in their suburban home in Cheektowaga, New York, when emergency crews could not reach them in time to treat their medical conditions, and another died in Buffalo.
Four more deaths were confirmed overnight, bringing the total to seven in Erie County, where county executive Mark Poloncarz warned there may be more dead.
“Some were found in cars, some were found on the street in snowbanks,” he said. “We know there are people who have been stuck in cars for more than two days.”
The storm knocked out power in communities from Maine to Seattle. But heat and lights were steadily being restored across the US.
According to poweroutage.us, fewer than 300,000 customers were without power at 8am on Sunday – down from a peak of 1.7 million.
Storm-related deaths were reported in recent days all over the country: seven in Erie County, New York; 10 dead in multiple crashes in Ohio, including a pileup involving some 50 vehicles, a man whose vehicle ran into a snow plough and an electrocuted utility worker; four motorists killed in separate crashes in Missouri and Kansas; a Vermont woman struck by a falling branch; an apparently homeless man found amid Colorado’s subzero temperatures; a woman who fell through Wisconsin river ice.
In Florida, the thermometer plunged below freezing for the first time in almost five years at Tampa International Airport, and hit 6.1C in West Palm Beach, according to the National Weather Service.
The temperature drop was conducive to iguanas falling out of trees since the cold-blooded reptiles typically become immobilised in unusually cold weather.