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Snow falls on the U.S. from Louisiana to Michigan, with more to come

A boy plays with snow at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, after the start of a wreath-laying ceremony honoring the legacy of the late civil rights leader in Washington, D.C. on Monday's holiday.
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds
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AFP via Getty Images
A boy plays with snow at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, after the start of a wreath-laying ceremony honoring the legacy of the late civil rights leader in Washington, D.C. on Monday's holiday.

Parts of the South woke up to a blanket of snow on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, joining a large swath of other Lower 48 states that are in the icy grip of winter. Arctic air has brought breathtaking cold to much of the U.S. — and it's not going away any time soon.

Schools that closed for the holiday were free to marvel at the snowfall along with everyone else.

"Snow. SNOW!" as the University of Mississippi proclaimed on Instagram.

From Shreveport, La., to Cheboygan, Mich., snow coated streets, homes and fields early Monday, creating beautiful scenery but also prompting warnings of treacherous driving conditions and life-threatening cold. Even slightly warmer areas were under threat, as freezing rain glazed roadways and created slippery conditions.

Winter's dangers were clear in Oregon, where a storm brought strong winds and freezing temperatures over the weekend. More than 100,000 accounts still lacked power Monday morning, according to the monitoring site PowerOutage.us.

"At least four people may have died of weather-related causes," Oregon Public Broadcasting reports. Likely causes of death ranged from hypothermia to one tree that fell on an RV and another that fell on a house.

Where's all this snow coming from?

Cold air primed the ground for snow to fall: as of Sunday, nearly 100 million people in the U.S. were under weather alerts for extreme cold.

It's not all one mega-storm: While Arctic cold is permeating from the north, the snowfall is coming from a variety of systems, from the southern jet stream near the Gulf of Mexico to the lake effect near the Great Lakes.

Northern Michigan is caught in the middle of a one-two punch, starting with a low-pressure system that brought snow on Friday. Then heavy lake effect snowfall started hitting the area, along with western and Upstate New York, where "life-threatening blizzard-like conditions" prompted travel bans.

Heavy lake effect snowfall was forecast for areas from northern Michigan to Buffalo, N.Y. In western and Upstate New York, "life-threatening blizzard-like conditions" have prompted travel bans.

Buffalo issued some 164 tickets to drivers, carrying a fine of $75, for driving during the ban, Mayor Byron Brown said on Sunday, according to member station WBFO. The Buffalo Bills' playoff game with the Pittsburgh Steelers was postponed from Sunday to Monday; the team enlisted fans to help clear piles of snow from seats in the Bills' Highmark Stadium.

What's it like out there?

It's pretty — and pretty sketchy for cars, trucks and SUVs.

In Kansas City, below-zero temperatures turned Saturday's NFL game into a frigid spectacle and shelters have expanded capacity to help people stay warm. But some people had no interest in taking refuge.

"We don't consider ourselves homeless," Patrick Thompson, who's been living on the streets of Kansas City for a year, told member station KCUR. "We consider ourselves survivalist."

Thompson and his friend, Marvin Gaddy, spent the night under a bridge.

"I got three pair of jeans on. One, two, oh, there's the other one," Gaddy said as he counted. "It keeps me comfortable. And I got Long Johns on too. So, just surviving."

Power outage numbers are — so far — hovering in the tens of thousands. As of 11 a.m. ET, 31,634 accounts had no power in Texas; 13,766 in Michigan; and 16,285 in Pennsylvania, according to PowerOutage.us. More than 7,000 customers also lacked electricity in Wisconsin — a welcome improvement after a weekend in which some 30,000 customers endured the cold without power.

Utility customers from Washington state to Texas are being asked to conserve electricity, as conditions reduced capacity — while also boosting demand. The limits reflected problems with a range of fuels, from solar and wind to natural gas.

In Wisconsin, Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love won a corner of the internet before he won a playoff game, stopping to help a woman whose car was stuck in the snow on Friday.

"He gets out of his car and he's like, 'Are you okay?'" said Lucy Kurowski, according to TV station WLUK. "And I was like, 'Are you Jordan Love?!' I was fan-girling."

Love pushed her car while Kurowski tried to drive — but to no avail. She eventually told him to leave, citing his game and saying other help was on the way.

What's the weather like going forward?

Huge swaths of the U.S. were covered by wintry clouds on Monday, as many parts of the country dealt with snowfall and icy conditions.
/ NOAA/ NESDIS/ STAR GOES East
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NOAA/ NESDIS/ STAR GOES East
Huge swaths of the U.S. were covered by wintry clouds on Monday, as many parts of the country dealt with snowfall and icy conditions.

From freezing rain to fluffy flakes, the nation is getting a variety of precipitation. In Corpus Christi, Texas, meteorologist Alan Holt of TV station KIII posted images of snow needles.

In much of the Appalachians and Mid-Atlantic, more snow is expected to fall late Monday and into Tuesday, from Washington D.C, north to Philadelphia and New York.

While the snow has brought a nice change, much of the country is facing cold days ahead, with the risk of yet more snowfall. And with sub-freezing temperatures expected to stick around in many places, any snow and ice will also stick.

Through Tuesday, forecasters expect wind chills to fall below minus 30 degrees in the Plains states, and drop to minus 50 in Montana and the Dakotas.

A brief respite is on the way.

"As we approach mid-week (Wednesday), the initial Arctic airmass will moderate, leading to below average (but still cold) temperatures east of the Continental Divide," the National Weather Service said. "Unfortunately, another surge of frigid Arctic air is expected to plunge southward out of Canada later this week, which could lead to more of the same dangerous cold weather across the Midwest and Deep South by the end of the work week."

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell
Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.