Deadly winter storms and at least twelve tornadoes have hit the United States and Canada, causing at least three deaths as well as mass power outages, airport standstills, road closures, flood and avalanche warnings, and the widespread destruction of homes and property.
An 81-year-old died in a tornado in Houston County, Alabama and another person was killed in a storm in Claremont, North Carolina. Both these fatalities are reported to be in mobile home parks. A motorist also died in Clayton County, Georgia, officials said, when a tree fell on the vehicle.
State of emergency
Numerous counties in Florida and New Jersey have declared a state of emergency. In New Jersey a coastal flood alert is in place, while in Florida, tornado-strength winds have torn roofs off homes, overturned cars and brought down power lines. 630,000 homes are already reported to be without electricity and yet face further storms, high winds, rain and up to a foot (30cm) more snow, according to forecasts by the country’s National Weather Service.
Flights, airports and roads
More than 1,300 flights had been cancelled as of Tuesday and Chicago O’Hare and Tampa, Florida airports saw ground stops. Vice-President Kamala Harris’s plane was diverted from Maryland to Virginia amid the disruption. Flyers are urged to check with airlines and airports before setting out on any journeys.
People are being urged not to travel by road in affected areas and Panama City, Florida had a curfew in place overnight until 6:00 am local time, due to “impassable” routes. “No one should be moving around in this area after dark,” the Bay County Sheriff’s Office declared on Facebook.
“We will not be able to rescue you”
New York State Governor Kathy Hochul cautioned the storm could bring “life threatening” flash floods, with rainfall and snow combining in a double threat. 2000 migrants living in tent shelters provided by the city have been moved to school sports halls.
Wind and heavy rain have been battering the east from the Florida Panhandle south to Maine. Further tornadoes and floods are predicted or already happening across Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina.
The Midwest has not escaped the wintry wrath either. Snow in Iowa has stranded many motorists and in Kansas and Nebraska, hundreds of weather-related rescue calls resulted in this social media plea from a state trooper: “Please stay home. It’s getting to the point where we will not be able to rescue you if you get stuck because we are having trouble getting around.”
Meanwhile, Canada has a storm warning in place from Ontario to Quebec and over on the Pacific coast, more than 25,000 Washington State customers are without power, as well as thousands more in Canada’s British Columbia. Mountain passes are closed with avalanche warnings in place.