Weather: Cold wave in the USA: power outages and first deaths

Extreme frost, snowstorms and freezing winds: the USA will be hit by a dramatic cold wave over the Christmas period.

Weather: Cold wave in the USA: power outages and first deaths

Extreme frost, snowstorms and freezing winds: the USA will be hit by a dramatic cold wave over the Christmas period. The US weather service reported that more than 200 million Americans were affected by severe weather warnings on the day before Christmas.

"From coast to coast" there were dangers from drastic temperature drops, freezing winds and massive snowfall. In Denver, Colorado, temperatures fell by around 40 degrees within 24 hours as the Arctic cold front passed through.

Almost 3000 flights canceled

The onset of winter is a problem for many travelers who want to go away or go home over the Christmas holidays. Almost 3,000 flights were canceled nationwide on Friday morning, according to the FlightAware website, and more than 700 were delayed. And people don't make progress on the ground either. Numerous train and bus connections have been canceled and the authorities warn against driving by car. The weather service warned that those who get stuck on the roads because of snow and ice could face the icy winds as a life-threatening trap. According to media reports, at least five people died in apparently weather-related traffic accidents in Kansas and Oklahoma.

Danger to life exists especially for people who have no home. Everywhere helpers try to save the homeless from the cold. For example, a church mission in Augusta, Georgia, is preparing for an onslaught, according to the New York Times. "On a normal night it might not be a matter of life and death," said the head of mission, "but now it is." According to media reports, at least five homeless people froze to death in Salt Lake City, Utah, earlier this week. And even in Miami, where it's typically warm, the Homeless Relief has enacted its Cold Emergency Plan.

However, the region around the Great Lakes in the north of the USA was particularly hard hit by the cold on Friday. At Chicago Airport, one of the most important in the United States, snow plows were in constant use, as shown in a Weather Channel video. And in the city, too, the winter services had their hands full. According to media reports, almost 300 salt spreaders were used to keep the roads free of ice.

Further east, in the state of Indiana, the governor has mobilized the National Guard to protect people from the expected snowstorms. 150 National Guardsmen are mainly deployed in northern Indiana. Videos from the Weather Channel showed people in supermarkets stocking up on groceries for the coming days.

A storm surge is expected on the east shore of Lake Erie near Niagara Falls, according to the National Weather Service. The water level could rise by several meters. In the city of Hamburg, in the state of New York, according to media reports, residents near the water have been asked to leave their homes.

In the state of Texas, the extreme cold snap brings back dark memories. There had already been a massive cold snap there last year. The power grid collapsed, millions of people were sometimes without electricity for days. According to investigations by the Texas authorities, more than 200 people are believed to have died as a result.

Around half a million people without electricity

But this time, be better prepared. "The power grid is ready and reliable," the New York Times quoted a manager as saying. "We expect to be able to produce enough electricity to meet demand during this cold spell." According to the website, almost 70,000 of the more than 12 million electricity consumers in Texas are currently without electricity. Across the country, around half a million people are left in the dark.

But the cold spook could be over just as quickly as it swept over the United States. In some areas of the country's north-west, temperatures are expected to soar again soon once the core of the cold air has passed, the National Weather Service forecast. In many places it should be 20 to 30 degrees warmer by the weekend.