A “once-in-a-generation storm” moving across the United States has created dangerous conditions for millions, and at least 15 people have died.
On Saturday morning, CNN reported that at least 15 people died across seven states since Wednesday, and that more than 1.6 million homes and businesses across the country had lost power due to stormy conditions.
Three people died after crashes caused by dangerous weather in Kansas, as well as one more in Missouri, according to CNN and NBC News. Additionally, four people were killed in an Ohio highway pileup that involved at least 46 vehicles on Friday, per the outlets.
“This is a stark reminder of what can happen when you get behind the wheel and try to drive in bad weather conditions,” Ohio State Highway Patrol Sgt. Ryan Purpura said in a video update shared to Twitter following the pileup on the Ohio Turnpike.
“High winds are still remaining and white-out conditions are still persistent,” Purpura added. “We ask that you do not travel unless you absolutely have to. If you do have to travel, we ask that you take precautions, take it slow, be patient, wear your seatbelt and increase your following distance.”
A portion of the Ohio Turnpike’s westbound lanes were reopened by midnight on Saturday, while the eastbound lane on the highway remained closed as 15 commercial vehicles were removed from the turnpike under “white-out conditions,” the Ohio State Highway Patrol wrote on Twitter.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear also reported three deaths related to stormy conditions at the start of the holiday weekend. Two people were reported to have died in car crashes while an unhoused man was found dead outside as temperatures dipped as low at -5 degrees Fahrenheit in Louisville, Kentucky on Friday, according to CNN and the National Weather Service.
On Thursday, more than 110 million people — a third of the U.S. population — were under winter-weather alerts that stretched across 37 states, according to CNN, which also noted that parts of the Midwest and Plains are set to have their coldest Christmas in 40 years.
Those regions will also experience “near-zero visibility and considerable blowing and drifting of snow,” according to the National Weather Service. “This will lead to dangerous, to at times impossible, land and air travel leading up to the holiday weekend.
“This is not like a snow day when you were a kid,” the president added, pleading with travelers to leave early if possible and to stay safe. “This is serious stuff.”