Major cities on the East Coast broke a snow drought of sorts Tuesday while other parts of the U.S. struggled with perilously low temperatures that closed schools, cut power and likely contributed to deaths by cold exposure.
New York City’s Central Park recorded more than an inch (2.54 centimeters) of snow since midnight, the first time since 2022 that it had at least an inch the same day. The National Weather Service said Philadelphia snapped a similar 715-day streak, too.
More than 90,000 U.S. homes and businesses were without power, most of them in Oregon, Texas and Louisiana, after widespread outages that began last weekend. Portland General Electric warned that the threat of freezing rain could delay restoration efforts, and the grid operator in Texas asked residents to voluntarily cut back on electricity.
Schools were closed in Portland and other major cities, including Chicago, Detroit, Denver, Dallas, Houston, Memphis, Tennessee, across New England and in the Washington, D.C., region. Federal offices in the nation’s capital were closed as roughly 2 inches (5.08 centimeters) of snow hit the area.
Another day of record cold temperatures was predicted across much of the Rockies, Great Plains and Midwest, with wind chills below minus 30 (minus 34.4 Celsius) extending into the mid-Mississippi Valley.
In Memphis, the Tennessee Valley Authority, which supplies electricity to 10 million people in seven states, asked customers to voluntarily reduce power to avoid brownouts and blackouts, citing an “unusually high demand” for electricity because of the cold.
Parts of Nashville, Tennessee, received 9 inches of snow (23 centimeters) beginning Sunday — nearly twice the annual average. Maeve McConville said she and her sister were stuck inside an American Airlines plane for seven hours Monday after arriving from Washington.
“The pilot came on and said, ‘No gates available, and ground operations just told us it’s going to be at least an hour,'” McConville told The Associated Press.
But an hour turned into many hours. McConville said portable stairs were taken to the plane but were unusable. American said “challenging conditions” made gate arrivals very difficult. Passengers watched hours of TV and movies as they waited to be returned to a gate.
“I’ve now seen all of season four of ‘Friday Night Lights,’” McConville said.
At least four people in the Portland area died, including two people from suspected hypothermia. In Wisconsin, the deaths of three homeless people in the Milwaukee area were under investigation. New Jersey authorities said two people died when their SUV collided with a snowplow on the slick Garden State Parkway in Monmouth County.
A man in Chicago fought off the Arctic-like cold Tuesday with a fire made from cardboard, splintered pallets and other trash under Interstate 90/94 in Chicago. Others without a secure home sought shelter in more than 20 tents erected nearby.
In the Pacific Northwest, ice storm warnings were in effect through Wednesday morning. In parts of the Cascades into the Northern Rockies, 15 to 28 inches (38 to 71 centimeters) of snow was possible.
Forecasters in Buffalo, New York, warned that the region should brace for a foot (30 centimeters) or more of snow through Thursday, on top of a mighty storm that delayed an NFL playoff game for a day.
Armed with only a shovel, Belinda Bonacquisti credited a 14-year-old boy with a snowblower who helped her clear 3 feet (90 centimeters) centimeters from her suburban Buffalo driveway Monday.
“I didn’t know where he came from or what direction,” she told WKBW-TV. “He just really bailed me out.”
Voters handed former President Donald Trump a win Monday night in the coldest first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses on record. Temperatures dipped to minus 3 degrees (minus 19.4 C) in Des Moines, with the wind chill making it feel far colder.
Despite the threats posed by cold weather, there still was room for frivolity.
In Philadelphia, more than 3 inches (7.62 centimenter) of snow finally fell after a long dry spell. Isaiah Stout said his kids “lost their minds” and wanted to play outside.
“We had to run to Target,” Stout said. “It was really crazy in there. Got their snowsuits and their snow boots and now they’re excited. So this is cool. Really cool.”
Dan O’Conor, known as the “Great Lake Jumper,” did his usual morning flip into Lake Michigan in Chicago where the air temperature was at minus 5 degrees (minus 15 C), according to his social media feed.
“To get the amount of UV rays that I like, you’ve got to get them while they’re here. And right now is a good time,” retired carpenter Richard Wineberg, 71, said as he watched O’Conor and explained his morning walk in the winter sun at Montrose Harbor.
“It’s a way just to let off steam,” Michael Lipin said, brushing snow off his cap, “bring some childhood memories back.”
Associated Press reporters Claire Rush in Portland, Oregon; Michael Hill in Albany, New York; Carolyn Thompson in Buffalo, New York; Travis Loller in Nashville, Tennessee; and Teresa Crawford in Chicago contributed to this story.