Nearly 90 dead after fierce winter storms strike US

  • By Bernd Debusmann Jr
  • BBC News, Washington

Video caption,

Watch: Freezing US weather causes striking ice formations

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.

Image caption,

A frozen car after an accident in Iowa on 15 January

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.

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.

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