Nearly 90 dead after fierce winter storms strike US

Home*Cover Story*International

Nearly 90 dead after fierce winter storms strike US

Nearly 90 weather-related deaths have been recorded across the US after the country was pummelled by ferocious winter storms for the past week.

The deaths include at least 25 in Tennessee and 16 in Oregon, which remains under a state of emergency following severe ice storms.

Tens of thousands of people also remain without power across wide swathes of the country.

Icy conditions are expected to continue until the middle of the week.

A total of 89 weather-related fatalities have been recorded across the country over the past week, according to a tally maintained by CBS, the BBC’s US partner.

While the death toll has been greatest in Tennessee and Oregon, fatalities have also been reported in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Washington, Kentucky, Wisconsin, New York, New Jersey and elsewhere.

In one incident in Portland, Oregon last Wednesday, three people were electrocuted to death when powerful winds caused a power line to fall and strike the vehicle in which they were travelling. A baby who was in the vehicle survived.

Other deaths remain under investigation, including that of a person killed in a five-car crash in Kentucky and four in Illinois.

Five people – most of them presumed to be homeless – died over the course of just four days in Seattle, according to the Associated Press.

In Mississippi, the weather has prompted officials to warn drivers to “drive only if necessary” and “be aware of black ice” on the state’s roads. Colleges and universities in the state have delayed students’ return from winter break due to the conditions.

Mississippi officials are also investigating whether online rumours about potential storm-related water shortages prompted residents to store water in their bathtubs. The move caused a temporary drop in water pressure and dry faucets for thousands of residents in Jackson, the state’s capital, which has historic water issues.

Water issues also continue to plague Tennessee, where 400,000 remain under a boil water due to broken pipes in the Memphis area – one of nearly 30 areas that issues similar warnings. The local utility there said it had fixed 41 water mains and more than 4,000 water pipes because of the cold temperatures.

“Use boiled or bottled water for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, and food preparation until further notice” the company said on X. “Tap water is safe for bathing and showering, try to avoid getting it in your mouth.”

Restaurants and bars in the US southern city were reportedly using bottled water to serve customers on Sunday, with some forced to close or offer modified menus.

Across the country in New York, the Buffalo Bills NFL team was – for the second time in a week – forced to reach out to fans for help shovelling snow from the team’s stadium ahead of its Sunday match-up with the Kansas City Chiefs.

By about 1500 local time (2000 GMT), the team’s supporters, known as the Bills Mafia, had reportedly cleared more than 30 inches (76cm) of snow from the stadium.

While electricity has largely been restored in areas of the US that lost it due to the winter weather, tens of thousands of people remain without power across the country.

As of Sunday afternoon, the total included nearly 10,000 people in Oregon, 8,000 in North Carolina, 7,000 in California and 4,300 in Kentucky.

Icy conditions and chilling winds are expected to continue at least through the beginning of the week.

After that, a thaw is expected, with some meteorologists warning that warm air and rain could cause flooding in parts of the Midwest and north-eastern US.