Winter Storm in the Western United States: California is hit by snowfall and rain
Heavy snowfall and rain hit California and other parts of the Western United States Friday in a new winter storm. Meanwhile, one of the most powerful ice storms in decades led to lengthy power outages for thousands of Michigan residents.
At least two people have died in connection with the storms. A Michigan firefighter died Wednesday due to contact with a downed high-voltage power line. In Rochester, Minnesota, a pedestrian was killed in a collision with a snowplow truck.
Blizzards and snowstorms left about a million homes and businesses from one U.S. coast to the other without power. The storm resulted in major freeway closures and disruptions to air service. According to FlightAware.com, more than 300 flights were canceled and more than 5,000 flights were delayed in the United States on Friday.
The National Weather Service warned of a “cold and dangerous winter storm” in California that will last through Saturday. Up to a meter and a half of snow is expected in the Sierra Nevada and Southern California mountains.
The regional weather bureau called the storm a “historic event” for the amount of snow.
Federal Highway 5, the main north-south U.S. West Coast highway, was closed south of the Oregon border due to snowfall in the Sacramento Valley and on a high mountain pass north of Los Angeles. An avalanche warning has been issued in some areas.
In northern Michigan, hundreds of thousands of people were left without power Friday after the storm caused power lines and poles to become about two centimeters thick with ice.
At one point, more than 820,000 customers in Michigan were left in the dark. By Friday, that number had dropped to 700,000, mostly residents of a densely populated area in the southeastern part of the state around Detroit. Power is promised to be restored by Sunday, but given that temperatures will be around minus 18 degrees Celsius by then, that is little consolation.
“We haven’t had an ice storm in the last 50 years that has affected our infrastructure like this,” said Trevor Lauer, president of Detroit power company DTE Electric.
Portland, Oregon, got its second-largest snowfall on record this week. The city’s icy roads aren’t expected to thaw until Saturday.
Some people, though, were pleased with the weather. In the San Francisco Bay Area, hundreds of people made their way to Mount Tamalpais to play in the snow, a rarity in the area.
Possible evacuation warnings were even issued for four areas of Ventura County, California. Meteorologists warned that temperatures in the region could drop well below normal, posing a particular danger to the homeless.
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