150M under weather alerts, 9 dead as 'dangerous cold' has US in its clutches: Updates

Editor's Note: This page is a summary of winter weather news for Monday, Jan. 15. For the latest news on the weather, view our live updates file for Tuesday, Jan. 16.

ARLINGTON, Va. − A massive wave of arctic air sweeping down on the jet stream gripped a wide swath of the nation Monday as temperatures plummeted 20 to 40 degrees below normal, fueled by howling winds that placed almost half of all Americans under wind chill watches and warnings.

The weather was blamed for four deaths in Oregon, where more than 80,000 people remained without power after being slammed by high winds, ice and snow. A snowmobiler also died Sunday night when hit by a semitrailer in Utah, where the mountains got nearly 4 feet of snow in a day. In Wyoming, a backcountry skier was killed after triggering a 50-foot-wide avalanche. And in Milwaukee, officials were investigating three deaths of homeless people believed to have been caused by hypothermia.

Montana saw wind chills surpass minus 40. Texas called for energy conservation because of unrelenting freezing temperatures, and parts of Florida braced for the freeze.

About 150 million Americans − 45% of the nation's population − were under a wind chill warning or advisory for dangerous cold and wind, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Zack Taylor.

"These wind chills could cause frostbite on exposed skin in a few minutes and hypothermia shortly thereafter,'' the weather service said. "Avoid outside activities if possible.''

Weather-related flight delays again brought havoc to airlines and airports. More than 8.500 flights within, into, or out of the U.S. had been delayed or canceled by 8 p.m. ET, according to FlightAware.

"The main theme to our weather story over much of the Lower 48 (states) remains the brutally cold temperatures and associated significant wintry weather," National Weather Service meteorologist Jacob Asherman said. "Little has changed with the 'take-home' message regarding the dangerous cold entrenched over the U.S."

Asherman said subzero temperatures and colder winds will prevail through Tuesday as wind chills dip below minus 30 across the Plains and minus 50 in Montana and the Dakotas. Farther south and east, potentially dangerous winter storms driving a mix of snow, sleet, and freezing rain were rolling toward the Tennessee Valley and Gulf Coast states to Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and New York.

The good news is that by Wednesday the arctic air mass will moderate. The bad news is another surge of frigid arctic air is expected to plunge southward from Canada by week's end. That, Asherman said, could lead to more treacherous conditions across the Midwest and Deep South.

On ice:Millions face cold temps from Dakotas to Florida


∎ L​ows in the 20s are expected along the northern Gulf Coast, from East Texas to North Florida. Temperatures could drop into the teens and perhaps a few single digit-lows in the Deep South, The Weather Channel says.

∎ Almost 80% of the nation could see below-freezing temperatures and over 140 daily cold records could be broken Monday and Tuesday from Oregon to Mississippi, CNN reported.

∎ In Oregon, high winds toppled a tree onto a house, killing a man. Two other people died of suspected hypothermia and a fourth died in a fire after a tree fell onto an RV.

∎ The snowmobiler who was killed in Utah was part of a group of four trying to cross U.S. Highway 40 in the Strawberry Reservoir area about 70 miles southeast of Salt Lake City, the Utah Highway Patrol said.

∎ In Austin, Texas, a person was found dead at a homeless encampment as a hard freeze warning remained in effect for most of central Texas through Wednesday morning. The death is possibly related to the current winter storm, though the official cause of death will be determined by the Travis County medical examiner’s office, the Austin Fire Department said in a news release.

∎ Public schools canceled Tuesday's classes for weather-related reasons in Chicago, which has the nation's fourth-largest district, as well as Denver, Dallas, Fort Worth, Texas, and Portland, Oregon.

People help a driver out after his rear-wheel drive vehicle got stranded on Rosa L. Parks Blvd. after a winter storm in Nashville, Tenn., on Jan. 15, 2024.

Major '2021 level' ice storm projected in Oregon

A major ice storm capable of bringing widespread power outages and crippling travel appears increasingly likely for Oregon's Willamette Valley heading into Tuesday. The National Weather Service is forecasting anywhere from a quarter to three-quarters of an inch of ice for a widespread area from roughly Corvallis and Salem up to the Portland Metro Area.

The impact is expected to be worse than earlier this week and could be on par with the 2021 ice storm that knocked out power for hundreds of thousands, said Shawn Weagle, lead forecaster for the weather service in Portland. The ice storm warning will last until early Wednesday.

"If the forecast holds, it has the potential to be as bad as 2021 because that amount of ice can bring down a lot of trees very easily," Weagle said.

In Eugene, the owners of a sports bar and arcade turned the business' porch into a warming shelter in response to the ice storm covering the Willamette Valley.

"When this (storm) started happening, we just realized we had this deck out there, and whereas it’s not indoors, we have the infrared heaters out there and being able to be somewhere where it might be 40 or 50 degrees is better than 20 degrees," said Brandon Whitmer, husband of Big City Gamin’s owner Brittney Whitmer, who has her own experience of being unhoused.

Brandon estimated they served about 100 meals Monday morning and that between 50 and 70 people were sheltering on the porch Monday afternoon.

— Zach Urness, Salem Statesman Journal; Alan Torres and Chris Pietsch, Eugene Register-Guard

Freezing temperatures to test Mississippi capital's new water system

Freezing temperatures are predicted for early this week in Jackson, Mississippi, which will be the first real test of the city's new winterized water system. The city's long-trouble water system had failed to produce adequate pressure and pipes were frozen in 2021 and 2022 during cold snaps.

JXN Water, the city's third-party water manager, plans to closely monitor the water system from Monday through Wednesday, as those are the expected days to have freezing temperatures.

"We've been working on winterization of the plants for a better part of a year, making sure that everything there is as winterized as possible," Ted Henifin, Jackson’s interim water manager, said at a news conference Friday. "I don’t think we can be anymore prepared than we are."

Officials also advised residents to protect their pipes by letting one faucet drip, covering pipes with insulation, and closing garage doors and crawl space openings before cold weather arrives.

— Charlie Drape and Pam Dankins, Mississippi Clarion Ledger

Three deadly avalanches and a near-miss

The avalanche that killed the backcountry skier in Wyoming was the third such tragedy in less than a week. On Wednesday, one man died and three other people were injured in a ski resort avalanche in California's Sierra Nevada. The next day, a person was fatally buried in snow in the Idaho backcountry near the Montana border.

Across, the Rocky Mountains, the dangers of swirling, sliding snow prompted authorities to close several roads, including a 20-mile stretch of I-70 east of Vail, Colorado. On Sunday, Berthoud Pass in central Colorado was closed when an avalanche briefly trapped the occupants of 10 vehicles.

Kaitlyn Punzalan and her husband were among them, as they headed home to Denver with friends.

"My friend was driving my car and all of a sudden he goes, 'Ah, avalanche!’ And we just look up and see all of this snow coming down towards us," Punzalan told KUSA-TV.

She said it took them about an hour to dig out, with help from others in the area. No injuries were reported.

Deep freeze, snow shutting schools in Tennessee

Road conditions across much of greater Nashville were perilous Monday as crews worked to clear several inches of snow with up to 6 more inches possible in some areas. Monday's high temperature was only expected to reach 20 degrees, and temperatures were not expected to climb above freezing until Thursday afternoon, the National Weather Service office in Nashville said.

Schools were closed in honor of Martin Luther King Day, but Metro Nashville Public Schools and dozens of other districts around the state announced they would be closed on Tuesday − and many on Wednesday, too. Businesses also closed their doors.

At her home in Williamson County, south of Nashville, Kristin Kelly, 41, watched the snowfall.

"It’s very tranquil and vibrant all at the same time," she said. "If we're lucky, we get one to two decent snow events a year. ... I’m happy with one good snowfall. Then I’m ready for the pool."

Natalie Neysa Alund

Record chill to greet Iowans for caucuses

Below-zero wind chills throughout Iowa on Monday tested caucus-goers' willingness to head out for town halls across the state to support their favorite presidential candidates. Monday is expected to be the coldest Iowa caucuses day since the process began in 1972 when the wind chill dipped to 26 degrees below zero. The high that day was 25 degrees.

The forecast for Monday called for a high of zero degrees, according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Kerry Schwindenhammer. But temperatures, he said, could feel like 20 to 25 degrees below zero − or even 30 degrees below zero in some spots.

"You can’t sit home," former President Donald Trump told supporters Sunday. "If you’re sick as a dog, you say, 'Darling, I gotta make it.' Even if you vote and then pass away, it’s worth it."

Latest forecast:Bundle up for subzero temps, coldest caucus on record

Texas, Mississippi slammed with ice

An area of ice extended from northeastern Texas to the northern parts of Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia early Monday. This "icy zone" will expand southeastward into the central and western Gulf coast by Monday night, AccuWeather said. In Texas, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas − ERCOT − issued a conservation appeal for Monday, citing record-breaking demand.

“The dangerously cold wind chills could result in hypothermia or frostbite if precautions are not taken,” the National Weather Service warned.

In Mississippi, the National Weather Service in Jackson said temperatures would fall into the single digits, with wind chills below zero through Tuesday night. The weather service urged residents to "protect people, pipes and pets" as the freeze is likely to last until late Wednesday morning.

"A wintry mix is ongoing across the Delta and parts of southeast (Arkansas) and northeast (Louisiana)," the National Weather Service said. "While accumulations will be greatest farther north and west, travel issues are expected across much of the area."

Gavin Weigand shovels snow from the lower bowl inside Highmark Stadium before the Buffalo Bills game.

Buffalo gets break in snow, help from fans for playoff game

Buffalo, New York, got a break in the snow for the NFL playoff game that started Monday afternoon. The game was postponed from Sunday because of weather conditions. Buffalo Airport received more than 8 inches of snow Sunday, breaking the daily record set in 1963. Workers and volunteers shoveled about 2 feet of snow from the seats at Highmark Stadium.

"You got to remember you’re a Bills fan. It’s all part of the deal," said Bob Issacs, among the local residents who took up the team on its request for volunteers to clear the seats in temperatures in the teens for $20 an hour. Their efforts paid off as the snow had been removed by kickoff. The Buffalo Bills would go on later to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-17.

More lake-effect snow was forecast Tuesday through Thursday, the Weather Service in Buffalo said.

Snow, icy conditions in store for mid-Atlantic, Northeast

Though not as overwhelming as the amount of snow that has blanketed Buffalo, parts of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic are due for their first significant coating in two years.

Most of the stretch from Virginia to Maine is expected to receive 1 to 3 inches of snow from Monday night and Tuesday, Accuweather reported. The 2 to 3 inches forecast for Washington would be the largest amount in the capital city in at least two years.

New York City has a chance to break its spell of days without more than 1 inch of snow, which like Washington and Philadelphia sits at 700-plus. But the bigger concern may be icy conditions and freezing rain.

"Unlike the flurries and snow squalls that drifted across the area on Sunday and mainly melted on roads, lower temperatures in place for the storm from Monday night to Tuesday will lead to slippery and snow-covered roads and sidewalks in many cases," Accuweather senior meteorologist Matt Benz said.

Contributing: Anthony Robledo, USA TODAY; The Associated Press