Christmas morning saw more than 200,000 people without power as a days-long winter mega storm that pounded multiple eastern US states on Sunday claimed more than 20 lives.

This weekend’s weather, which included protracted blizzards and record-breaking cold, left thousands of flights cancelled, delayed holiday travellers, and imprisoned residents in ice and snow-covered houses. Wind chill temperatures in all 48 contiguous US states went below freezing.

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Eight states have reported twenty-two weather-related fatalities, including at least seven in western New York, where severe snowfall, unrelenting winds, and extremely cold temperatures have put Buffalo and the other communities in danger.

Buffalo remains in the throes of “a major disaster,” with emergency responders unable to reach several high-impact areas, a senior official said early Sunday. 

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“At this time, seven people have died as a result of the storm in Erie County. There could be more,” Mark Poloncarz, county executive, said reporters.

He reported brutal conditions, including hours-long whiteouts and victims discovered in automobiles and under snow banks in a location where Governor Kathy Hochul mobilised the National Guard to assist with rescues. “It was as horrible as anyone had ever seen,” Poloncarz added.

Poloncarz remarked, “It was the worst anyone has ever seen it.”

The Great Lakes region would saw blizzard conditions on Christmas Day, according to the National Weather Service, with snow accumulations of 2 to 3 feet through tonight.

One couple in Buffalo, which is located across the border from Canada, told AFP on Saturday that due to the utterly impassable roads, they would not be making the 10-minute drive to visit their family for Christmas.

According to flight tracking website, the “bomb cyclone” storm, one of the worst in decades, forced the cancellation of more than 1,500 US flights on Sunday, in addition to the 3,500 flights cancelled on Saturday and the almost 6,000 flights cancelled on Friday.

There were still passengers detained or delayed at airports in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Minneapolis, and New York, among others.

Some of the major transportation routes in the country, including the cross-country Interstate 70, had to be temporarily shut down due to road ice and white-out conditions.

Even as the country entered what is often the busiest travel season of the year, drivers were advised not to use the roadways.

The nation’s electrical grids have been heavily strained by the harsh weather, and some power companies are pleading with consumers to cut back on usage to prevent rolling blackouts in states like North Carolina and Tennessee.

Approximately 1.7 million people nationwide were without electricity at one point on Saturday amid the freezing weather.

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However, by Sunday, the number had significantly decreased, even though more than 200,000 consumers in eastern states were still without electricity.

The Canadian government has also issued severe weather advisories. In the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, hundreds of thousands were left without electricity, numerous flights were cancelled in major cities, and the passenger rail service between Toronto and Ottawa was interrupted.

Authorities in British Columbia province say 53 passengers were injured after a passenger bus collided late Saturday on the Okanagan Connector highway northeast of Vancouver. The crash’s cause was being investigated.