A prolonged winter storm that led to the death of at least one person and knocked out power for hundreds of thousands of customers in the Upper Midwest was continuing its assault on the region on Thursday, forecasters said.
More than 900,000 customers were without power Thursday evening across Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin, according to PowerOutage.us, which compiles data from utilities. More than 815,000 of those outages were in Michigan, where significant ice had accumulated on trees and power lines. Wind gusts between 30 and 40 miles per hour were expected in the state on Thursday night, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids.
“This intense blast of winter severely impacted our communities across the state,” Capt. Kevin Sweeney, deputy state director of emergency management and homeland security for the Michigan State Police said in a news release on Thursday.
The storm led to the death of Ethan Quillen, a volunteer firefighter from the Paw Paw Fire Department in Michigan, on Wednesday evening, according to Lt. DuWayne Robinson of the Michigan State Police, which is investigating the incident as an accidental death.
At a news conference on Thursday, Lt. Robinson said Mr. Quillen, a lieutenant with the fire department, had responded to the site of a tree that had fallen on a power line.
“He contacted the line and unfortunately was killed as a result of that,” Lieutenant Robinson said. Paw Paw is about 60 miles southwest of Grand Rapids.
The weather was also affecting air travel. By Thursday evening, about 1,100 flights were canceled within, into or out of the United States, according to FlightAware, a flight tracking website.
As of Thursday evening, more than 240 flights had been canceled at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, where more than 13 inches of snow had fallen since Tuesday. In most parts of Minnesota, about a foot of snow had fallen by midday Thursday.
Flight cancellations were also reported at airports in Boston, Detroit, Milwaukee, Portland, Ore., and Toronto.
Chicago and other cities on Lake Michigan were experiencing gale-force winds and waves as tall as eight-feet high, the Weather Service said.
Hundreds of schools in Minneapolis canceled classes on Thursday. In Michigan, Grand Rapid Public Schools canceled classes for a second day, while Detroit Public Schools have been on a winter break all week.
Even in places where people are used to winter weather and driving on snow, ice on the road can often cause the most experienced drivers to have problems.
In the Northeast, snow began falling on Wednesday, and in some areas, it was measurable. A winter storm warning was in effect for parts of Maine, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.
Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York said Thursday morning that snow and freezing rain were creating hazardous road conditions in parts of the state. In the Buffalo area, meteorologists expected mixed precipitation on Thursday, with snow accumulations up to three inches and ice accumulations around a tenth of an inch.
In Buffalo, which was crushed by a late December blizzard that killed dozens, officials are warning of power outages that have led to darkened homes and inoperable streetlights. There were more than 17,000 power outages reported statewide as of Thursday evening.
Ice and freezing rain were also causing problems such as downed tree limbs, power lines and telephone poles, according to Mark Poloncarz, the Erie County executive. The National Weather Service in Buffalo said freezing drizzle would continue into Thursday afternoon, even as the storm tracked to the east.
In New York’s rural Genesee County, about 900 customers were without power late Thursday. A winter weather advisory was in effect overnight with a forecast of freezing rain, temperatures dropping to as low as 15 degrees and wind gusts up to 40 miles per hour.
Farther east in Maine, meteorologists said heavy snow was expected to sweep most of the state, dumping up to five inches on the ground. The National Weather Service reported that almost six inches of snow had fallen at Burlington International Airport in Vermont by Thursday morning, with an estimated eight to 12 inches of snowfall reported in some parts of the state by evening.
A winter weather advisory was in effect until early Friday morning for portions of northern New York and central and southern Vermont.
In California, the National Weather Service in Los Angeles issued a winter storm warning for the mountains of Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties until early Friday. Then, a blizzard warning will take over from Friday through Saturday.
Jesse McKinley and Emily Schmall contributed reporting.