Extreme winter weather gripped large swaths of the United States on Saturday, bringing heavy snow and ice and knocking out power for thousands from the Pacific Northwest to the Mid-Atlantic.
Minnesota — no stranger to cold weather — might have set a record low temperature for Feb. 13 of minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which was recorded 25 miles east of Ely, according to the National Weather Service. Minnesota’s previous record for the date was minus 46 degrees, set in 1916. Several other areas in northern Minnesota reported temperatures of 40 below, the Weather Service said.
Ice storm warnings, winter storm warnings and winter weather advisories were issued across a thick belt of the country, from Seattle to South Texas to Southern New Jersey, with many areas reporting brutally low temperatures.
Heavy snow fell across the mountains and lowlands of Washington and Oregon, with significant icing in northwest Oregon. Seattle was blanketed in more than a foot of snow, and emergency crews were responding to cars sliding off icy roads.
In southern Washington State, officials in Clark County declared a state of emergency, warning that roads had become impassable and that six snowplows had become stuck in deep snow and ice, despite being equipped with tire chains.
“This is a good reminder to the community that winter driving conditions are unpredictable and even the most prepared vehicles can have difficulty maneuvering through these conditions,” said Ahmad Qayoumi, Clark County’s public works director.
Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon declared a state of emergency on Saturday, saying that the weather had created “extensive damage” and left hundreds of thousands without power. She said crews were out in full force to respond to the dangerous conditions and to open warming centers.
In the Willamette Valley, in northwestern Oregon, traffic was at a standstill on some roads, including Interstate 84. Downed trees and power lines had closed other roads in Oregon, and low temperatures were making it difficult for plows.
“I’ve been with the Oregon Department of Transportation for 17 years, so I’ve seen some pretty bad storms, and this is right up there,” said Shelley Snow, a department spokeswoman. “It’s been a mess.”
More than 230,000 people in northwest Oregon were without power on Saturday afternoon as crews worked to fix more than 1,200 downed power lines, according to Portland General Electric. The company estimated that it could take at least two days to restore power.
“We really get that that’s frustrating,” the company wrote on Twitter, “and we’re sorry.”
Power failures affected at least eight states. Among the hardest hit were Virginia, with nearly 280,000 customers without power; Oregon, with more than 230,000; and North Carolina, with more than 120,000, according to PowerOutage.us, which aggregates live power data from utilities across the U.S.
The harsh weather was a prelude to another bout of winter weather that was expected to bring snow, sleet and freezing rain to more than 100 million Americans over the next several days.
The storm was expected to hit the Southern Plains on Sunday before slicing into the Mississippi, Tennessee and Ohio Valleys and the Northeast on Monday and Tuesday.
The Texas Department of Transportation warned drivers to prepare for “a marathon of historically cold air” over the next few days that could make driving dangerous.
“Remember, if you don’t have to be on the road, please stay home,” the department said.
Las Vegas was going through tumultuous weather of its own as an afternoon storm packed winds of up to 72 miles per hour at the North Las Vegas Airport, according to Las Vegas office of the National Weather Service.
Almost 30,000 customers were without power in the Las Vegas area alone, according to NV Energy.