Winter storms have caused major disruptions across the United States, with California and other parts of the West receiving heavy snow and rain, and tens of thousands of people in Michigan suffering in freezing temperatures after one of the worst ice storms in decades caused widespread power outages.
The storms have led to nearly one million homes and businesses being blacked out, while major roads have been closed and air travel has been severely impacted. The National Weather Service in California issued flash flood warnings for Los Angeles, its suburbs, and parts of Ventura County, where over six million people reside. The weather service has warned that some areas could receive up to 10 inches (23 centimeters) of rain, with authorities warning of debris flow in areas that have been burned by wildfires in recent years.
Blizzard warnings were also posted in the Sierra Nevada and Southern California mountain ranges, where as much as five feet (1.5 meters) of snow was expected. In Michigan, hundreds of thousands of people remain without power after a storm earlier in the week coated power lines, utility poles, and branches with ice as thick as three-quarters of an inch (1.9 centimeters).
The storms have caused widespread disruption across the country, with more than 460 flights canceled and over 7,400 delayed across the US on Friday, according to FlightAware.com. In California, the weather is expected to last through Saturday, with the state’s major north-south highway, Interstate 5, being closed south of the Oregon border as snow fell to the floor of the Sacramento Valley. A high mountain pass north of Los Angeles was also closed for hours before finally reopening late on Friday, although traffic was creeping along with a police escort.
In Michigan, where over 820,000 customers were initially without power, promises of restoration by Sunday, when low temperatures were expected to climb back above zero (minus 18 Celsius), were of little consolation to those affected. Apurva Gokhale, of Walled Lake, Michigan, said, “That’s four days without power in such weather. It’s unthinkable.” Trevor Lauer, president of Detroit-based DTE Electric, said, “We’ve not had an ice storm in the last 50 years that has impacted our infrastructure like this.”
At least three people have died in the storms, including a Michigan firefighter who died on Wednesday after coming into contact with a downed power line. In Rochester, Minnesota, a pedestrian died after being hit by a city-operated snowplow, while authorities in Portland, Oregon, said a person died of hyperthermia. Much of Portland was shut down with icy roads not expected to thaw until Saturday after the city’s second-heaviest snowfall on record this week — nearly 11 inches (28 centimeters).
While the storms have caused chaos and disruption, some residents have found joy in the winter weather. In the San Francisco Bay Area, hundreds of people drove up to 2,500-foot (760-meter) Mount Tamalpais to play in the snow — a rarity in the area.
The storms have impacted a wide area, with schools in Nevada and northern Arizona closed, and a Major League Soccer season-opening game in Southern California postponed. As the storms continue, residents are urged to take precautions and heed the warnings of authorities.