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Wind and snow snarl holiday travel in the Northeast and upper Midwest

ANDREW LIMBONG, HOST:

Wind and snow is still whipping across much of the upper Midwest and Northeast on this Christmas Eve. There have been near-whiteout conditions in parts of Michigan and New York. It's dangerously cold in several states across the country. The wind is blowing snow around so badly that police and firetrucks in some areas have gotten stuck in snow themselves. Tyler Scott from member station Michigan Radio reports more on the latest conditions. Tyler, hey.

TYLER SCOTT, BYLINE: Hi. Great to talk to you.

LIMBONG: Yeah, nice talking to you, too. So what's it looking like right now in Michigan?

SCOTT: Well, the snow has been piling up. Definitely, by far, worst in the western and northern parts of Michigan and across the state. Still today, it's about the second or third day in a row with hard wind blowing that snow around and causing problems with drifting and packed-on snow and ice on all kinds of roads.

Today, I talked to Lou Hunt. He's the director of emergency management for Ottawa County, Mich. He said this storm lived up to its billing as a doozy. Ottawa County's right next to Big Lake, Mich., so they're used to getting lots of lake-effect snow. But the wind was the big problem there, causing impassable roads yesterday and into the evening and today. Hunt said some police cruisers ended up having to get themselves towed out of the snow after they got stuck.

LOU HUNT: Things actually had gotten so bad last night that we put out a pretty strong message to our public, telling them that they may be on their own if they decide to drive overnight because we just plain might not be able to get to them.

SCOTT: And as I said, Hunt says blizzard conditions are persisting today. Christmas Eve's a big church night in West Michigan, so he expects some problems on the road today as well. But it's still very cold here. And, of course, thousands of flights were canceled yesterday and delayed nationwide today, just adding to the cancellations and delays we've seen this week.

LIMBONG: Yeah, there's all that snow, but it's the wind that's the worst threat to safe travel, right?

SCOTT: Yeah, the winds are a bit weaker here today than yesterday, but we're still seeing gusts above 30 miles per hour, which can cause blowing snow and drifts, right? But down in northern Indiana and Ohio, the wind chills are even colder than here in Michigan today. Those really bitter winds have led to wind chill warnings spanning from all the way out West in Montana to parts of New York and Georgia. Those states could see wind chills from 10 to 20 below.

LIMBONG: Wow. What kind of problems has this storm caused in terms of, you know, traffic, power outages and, like, safety in general?

SCOTT: Yeah, we had a number of traffic accidents yesterday and earlier in this week, particularly along some major highways in Michigan in the western part of the state, where those blizzard conditions have been. Power outages wide - we haven't seen widespread outages in Michigan. But elsewhere, across the upper third of the country, there are hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses without any power. That's according to the Associated Press. And officials have attributed at least 17 deaths to the storm so far, including two people in Buffalo who reportedly died in their homes when emergency responder crews couldn't get to them because of the blizzard-like conditions.

LIMBONG: Well, I guess the big question is, when will the weather get better?

SCOTT: Most of the wind chill and winter weather advisories issued by the National Weather Service expire tomorrow, so tonight will still be rough. But tomorrow, the winds should start to be calmer still than they have been the past couple days. I talked to Stefanie Stauffer today who put off her travel plans. She's the manager at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market. She said she's just going to wait until tomorrow to leave and go see family.

STEFANIE STAUFFER: We were planning on going later today, but it's looking like it's probably safer to go tomorrow. But luckily we're not going that far. We're going to St. Joseph. So it's about two hours and 15 minutes or so, but right in - straight into the blizzard is where we're headed.

SCOTT: And the forecast is supposed to match up with her expectations. Hopefully it won't be so bad if she waits till tomorrow. The wind should be calmer, but it's still going to be very, very cold in Michigan and across the upper Midwest and Northeast.

LIMBONG: That was Tyler Scott of Michigan Radio. Tyler, thank you so much.

SCOTT: Thank you.

LIMBONG: All right, stay warm, man.

SCOTT: Thanks.

(SOUNDBITE OF INSTRUMENTAL COVERS TAZZY'S "LET IT SNOW - INSTRUMENTAL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tyler Scott