A massive winter storm has begun rolling across the US and is predicted to bring dangerously cold temperatures and severe weather through the weekend.
From blizzards and “large hail” to thunderstorms and tornadoes, the National Weather Service has issued weather alerts in nearly every state.
Wind chills up to -45F (-42C) are forecast in Iowa, where voters are preparing to participate in the state’s caucuses on Monday.
It is the week’s third major US storm.
Going into the three-day weekend, thousands of flights were delayed or cancelled and people began experiencing power outages on Friday.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency in advance of a storm in the western part of the state, activating the National Guard.
A wind advisory warned of gusts up to 50mph (80km/h) from Texas to New York.
Storm disrupts final stretch of high-stakes Iowa race
Texas braced for lower temperatures and more frost than it saw last winter, evoking memories of the Great Texas Freeze of 2021.
In parts of Texas, the NWS issued a wind chill watch through Saturday and warned of hypothermia and frostbite. It predicted wind chills there could drop to -25F (-32C).
The average low temperature in Texas was forecast at 15F (-9C), prompting some concern among state energy suppliers, which saw the power grid collapse in 2021.
Texas Gov Greg Abbott told residents at a press briefing on Friday to be “very, very cautious” and to expect “ultra-cold temperatures”, adding that warming centres will be available for those in need.
He said another days-long blackout was unlikely.
“The power is going to stay on throughout the entirety of this winter storm episode,” Gov Abbott said, telling Texans that there were backup generators and enough fuel for those generators to avoid a 2021 repeat.
Still, there were more than 3,000 power outages in Houston on Friday afternoon, according to CenterPoint Energy, a local distributor.
To the east, in Alabama, more than 11,000 customers lost power, according to a local meteorologist, who said the weather there was less severe than anticipated.
In the area where Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana meet, the NWS said there was a risk of “damaging winds, large hail, and possibly a strong tornado”.
Further north, record cold temperatures brought by frigid wind chills were predicted, with over a foot of snow forecasted in some places like upper Michigan.
Up to 8in (20cm) of snow was forecast in Chicago, Illinois.
Over 80,000 Illinois residents were without power as of Friday morning, according to poweroutage.us, as flight cancellations and delays in the region have swelled. Chicago Mayor Donna Johnson told the Weather Channel that she was among those to lose power.
The state’s governor, JB Pritzker, wrote to Texas Governor Abbott, requesting an immediate pause in sending migrants to the state by plane and bus. He said in a letter that the weather could threaten the lives of families and children.
The mix of cold, snow and high winds is expected to bring blizzard conditions to other nearby states.
Winter storm warnings were issued in Iowa, where Republican voters are supposed to gather on Monday to select their state’s presidential nominee, as well as Wisconsin, northern Indiana, Illinois and Michigan.
In northern Missouri, wind chills up to 35 degrees below zero were predicted, along with 2-4in of snow, and wind gusts up to 45mph. Those cold wind chills could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes, the NWS warned.
“We call it ‘life-threatening’ for a reason,” a local Missouri branch of the service wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “Take it seriously. This kind of cold does not happen very often.”
Wind chill warnings ranging from -55F (-48C) to -35F (-37C) have been issued across the northwest, from Washington to North Dakota, and down to Nebraska and Kansas.
In Hawaii, wind advisories have also been issued warning locals of wind gusts over 75mph.
However, rapid bursts of wind have already began plaguing some parts of the US.
Over 4,000 miles away, in Fort Myers, Florida, local news footage showed residents battling wind gusts up to 30mph. And storm surges in the area were predicted to be up to 18ft high.
The storm has also been disruptive in Iowa, a state hit by snow and frosty temperatures earlier this week.
Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley on Friday cancelled her in-person events scheduled in the state due to “potentially dangerous weather conditions”.
Ron DeSantis also cancelled two in-person events “due to unsafe weather”, his campaign said, though Vivek Ramaswamy and Donald Trump are still scheduled to press on ahead of Monday’s caucuses in the Hawkeye State.
Iowa’s transportation department urged drivers to stay off the roads, warning of “treacherous driving conditions” across most of the state, with some routes impassable and drivers possibly encountering “whiteout conditions, drifting snow, and slick roads”.
Canadian officials issued weather warnings on Friday to every province and territory in the country.
Residents in Ontario, Quebec and Maritimes were told to brace for up to one foot of snow and extreme cold temperatures.
Wind chills in parts of Ontario and Quebec were forecasted to reach -30C (-22F) to -38C (-36F), bone-chilling temperatures only half as cold as the -67F predicted for parts of Alberta.