Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

Winter Storm Elliott Brings Record Low Temperatures and Snowfall Across the Nation, Impacts Continue Although Storm Has Passed

Tuesday, December 27, 2022 as of 2:00 PM ET

On Friday, December 23, the National Weather Service (NWS) reported that over 240 million people faced winter weather warnings or advisories as Winter Storm Elliott plunged temperatures to record lows and caused catastrophic blizzard conditions across the nation. According to the NWS, the storm met the criterion to be considered a bomb cyclone or an area of low pressure that intensifies rapidly. The storm produced strong winds and brutally cold temperatures in the Pacific Northwest before intensifying in the Great Lakes, where strong winds gusts generated whiteout conditions and rare “zero visibility” observations. The storm’s intensity caused thousands of flights to be delayed and canceled and many highways to be shut down. 

Across the nation, many states hit or tied record-low temperatures, with wind chills bringing temperatures even lower. The coldest confirmed wind chill occurred in Elk Park, Montana, where officials clocked a value of minus 75 degrees Fahrenheit. According to NBC News, there have been 63 fatalities attributed to the storm across 12 states, with most occurring in New York State.

 Twitter: Erie County, NY

According to New York state officials, this “once-in-a-generation storm” dropped over 50 inches of snow in some areas, prompting numerous regional driving bans and airport closures. In addition, over six million customers lost power at some point during the storm, according to PowerOutage.us. On Monday, December 26, President Biden approved New York’s emergency declaration, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to begin coordinating the disaster relief efforts in Erie and Genesee Counties.

Twitter: Governor Kathy Hochul

As of Monday, December 26, improved conditions have allowed rescue crews to begin responding to the hundreds of abandoned vehicles along the snow-covered Buffalo, New York highways. Numerous confirmed fatalities have been attributed to Emergency Medical Services (EMS) delay, while others involved prolonged exposure inside stranded vehicles or cardiac arrest. In total, authorities have confirmed 28 casualties in Erie County, New York, as of December 27. Driving bans continue to be in place in Erie County as the county begins to respond and recover from the storm. Individuals at risk are encouraged to remain up-to-date with information from their local NWS office and local government/emergency management office and follow guidance issued by local officials.

When the Snow Falls: Ready.gov

According to FEMA, winter storms can last from several hours to up to several days; disrupt access to heat, power, and communications; pose additional risks for vulnerable populations like older adults, children, those who are ill, and pets; and can “create a higher risk of car accidents, hypothermia, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning, and heart attacks from overexertion.” In order to stay safe, it is important to pay close attention to local weather reports, the Emergency Alert System, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio for the latest warnings, watches, and advisories and to seek shelter immediately when instructed to do so.