The massive winter storm that battered the U.S. with freezing temperatures, strong winds and snow had knocked out power to more than 1 million customers as of Friday morning and prompted more than a dozen governors to draw up emergency response plans.
The storm raged across the Midwest and East and was expected to intensify throughout the day, resulting in poor road conditions, low visibility and icy streets.
In north-central Kansas, three fatal crashes were believed to be weather-related Wednesday night, according to Kansas Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Candace Brayhills.
The life-threatening cold spread all the way to the Gulf Coast and the Mexican border, with sub-zero wind chills reported as far south as Austin and Atlanta. Cities including Washington, D.C., Atlanta and parts of Florida will experience near-record low temperatures on Christmas Eve Saturday, the forecast said.
As of 9:30 a.m. ET, damaging winds behind the front had left more than 1.1 million customers without power, stretching from Texas to New England, according to the PowerOutage.US website.. On top of that, more than 150,000 customers were without power in North Carolina and more than 102,000 in Connecticut, the website said.
Travel has also been affected, with hundreds of miles of road closures and flight cancellations mounting rapidly. The storm also caused coastal flooding, especially in the Northeast.
Related: Follow Live Updates
More than 200 million people in the U.S. are under wind chill warnings from the Canadian border to the Mexican border and from Washington state to Florida ahead of the holiday weekend, with sub-zero wind chill forecast for the Southeast by Friday. Additional winter weather alerts apply to blizzards, ice, snow, and flooding.
“The National Weather Service’s watch warning chart depicts one of the widest ranges of winter weather warnings and advisories on record,” the agency said Thursday.
Notably, parts of Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming have seen wind chills below minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit over the past two days.
“The ongoing major winter storm will continue to bring heavy snow, strong winds and life-threatening cold on Saturday. If traveling for the holidays, please use extra caution and pay attention to the latest forecasts and updates,” the National Weather Service said Thursday.
In pictures: Winter storms affecting the US
The storm is expected to bring more snow and blizzards Friday, especially in the Midwest.
As it moves east across the country, the storm is expected to become a “bomb cyclone,” a rapidly intensifying storm that reduced pressure by 24 millibars in 24 hours. The storm’s pressure is expected to rival that of a Category 2 hurricane that entered the Great Lakes on Friday.
Governors of at least 13 states, including Georgia and North Carolina in the south, have implemented emergency measures to deal with the storm. Several states have declared states of emergency, including the activation of the National Guard.
Additionally, more than 6,000 flights were canceled in the U.S. as of 11 a.m. ET Friday, according to FlightAware, with Midwestern airports particularly problematic.
• It will be cold: Friday will bring record low temperatures across a wide swath of the United States, including from the lower Mississippi River, northeast into Tennessee and the Ohio Valley, from the southeast to much of the east, across the southern Appalachians to The middle, and the middle — the Atlantic, according to the National Weather Service.
• Dangerous wind chill: The plummeting temperatures will be accompanied by strong winds that will create dangerously cold winds across nearly all of the central and eastern United States.
• Blizzard warning: The northern Midwest will experience severe cold, heavy snow and strong winds. The warning applies to parts of Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota and Michigan. A blizzard warning is in effect for Buffalo, New York, on Friday morning. Such warnings are in effect when snow and 35 mph winds reduce visibility to less than a quarter mile for at least three hours.
• Whitening conditions: Even if the snowfall stops, blizzard conditions may exist as strong winds can lift snow already on the ground and cause low visibility.
Besides heavy snow and blizzards, one of the biggest dangers of storms is the rapid drop in temperature in a short period of time. The air will continue to get colder, especially at night.
A growing number of cities are experiencing rapid temperature drops as the arctic air that hit much of the western United States and Great Plains moves east this week.
Denver: In one hour, Denver International Airport saw a 37-degree plunge Wednesday, initially marking the largest one-hour drop on record for the airport, according to the National Weather Service.
Chicago: In just over 11 hours Wednesday, the temperature in Chicago dropped 38 degrees; in wind chill terms, it dropped 53 degrees, from 27 degrees Fahrenheit to minus 26 degrees.
British stone. Louis: In the 24 hours from Tuesday to Wednesday night, temperatures in St. Louis dropped 44 degrees — in wind chill terms, 61 degrees, from 31 degrees to minus 30 degrees.
Memphis: Temperatures in Memphis dropped 36 degrees — in wind chill terms, 54 degrees — from 40 degrees to minus 14 degrees in just over six hours Wednesday afternoon and evening.
Nashville: In just two hours on Wednesday night, temperatures in Nashville dropped 29 degrees — 41 degrees in terms of wind chill, from 39 degrees to minus 2 degrees.
Dallas: Over nine hours on Wednesday, temperatures in Dallas dropped 31 degrees — 44 degrees in terms of wind chill, from 40 degrees to minus 4 degrees.
Little Rock, Arkansas: Over nine hours Wednesday afternoon and evening, temperatures in Little Rock dropped 36 degrees — 52 degrees, from 41 to minus 11 degrees, according to the wind chill.
Cheyenne, Wyoming: In about an hour, Cheyenne dropped 43 degrees. The capital also cooled by 30 degrees in 10 minutes.