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‘Life-threatening’ blizzard will slam Iowa as record-low temps or tornado-spawning storms could hit the South and East Coast

<i>Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images North America/Getty Images</i><br/>A farm is seen on January 11
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
A farm is seen on January 11

By Holly Yan and Robert Shackelford, CNN

(CNN) — A calamitous cocktail of vicious winds, extreme snowfall, dangerous thunderstorms and potentially lethal cold is taking aim across the country as perilous conditions snarl travel and threaten power outages in freezing temperatures. Here’s the latest:

More than 70 million people are under winter weather alerts Friday: The alerts stretch from California to New York.

‘Life-threatening’ blizzard conditions: The vast majority of Iowa is under a blizzard warning Friday into Saturday as 6 to 10 inches of snowfall gets whipped by wind gusts of more than 40 mph. Back-to-back storms hammering the Midwest have resulted in the snowiest week for Des Moines since 1942.

The Iowa State Patrol responded to 355 motorist assist calls and 34 crashes by Friday afternoon as wintry conditions pounded the state, the agency said in a social media post.

The state’s transportation department and Des Moines police urged travelers to stay off roads amid “dangerous whiteout conditions, drifting snow and slick roads.”

In addition to dangerous travel conditions, “Blowing snow is expected to significantly reduce visibility to near-whiteout conditions by midday Friday persisting into early Saturday,” the National Weather Service in Des Moines warned. “The cold wind chills as low as 10 to 20 below zero could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 30 minutes and could be potentially life-threatening if stranded outside.”

Winds strengthened Friday morning, “with life threatening blizzard conditions expected into Friday afternoon and Friday night,” the National Weather Service office in Des Moines said.

More than 250,000 homes and businesses in the dark: Widespread power outages stretched from the Great Lakes to the South Friday as intense winds, severe thunderstorms and heavy snow walloped several states. Most of the outages were in Illinois, where more than 85,000 customers were in the dark from winds that gusted as high as 55 mph at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

Winds strengthened Friday morning, “with life threatening blizzard conditions expected into Friday afternoon and Friday night,” the National Weather Service office in Des Moines said.

Hundreds of record lows could be shattered: More than 240 daily cold temperature records could be tied or broken across the US through Tuesday.

Wind chills across parts of Montana could reach as low as -70 degrees this weekend. By Tuesday, the high temperature in Memphis, Tennessee, might reach only 17 degrees – which would set a new record.

Over the next week, more than 55 million people will endure temperatures below zero.

The East Coast could get deluged: At least 35 million people from North Carolina to Massachusetts are under flood watches Friday as more rain is expected to pound the East Coast – including some areas still trying to recover from the torrential downpours and storms that thrashed the region earlier this week.

Coastal flooding could submerge vehicles in the Northeast: More than 7 million people are under flood warnings across parts of the Northeast coastline. While New York City will be under a coastal flood advisory Saturday, parts of Suffolk and Nassau counties could get hit with more severe coastal flooding — up to 3 feet above ground level in some places.

“This will result in extensive road closures and flooding of low lying property including parking lots, parks, lawns and first floors and basements of homes/businesses near the waterfront,” the National Weather Service office in New York said.

“Vehicles parked in vulnerable areas near the waterfront will likely become flooded and/or submerged. Flooding will likely also extend inland from typical flood prone areas along the tidal rivers and bays, causing flooding in some areas that typically don’t see flooding.”

Philadelphia is under a coastal flood warning for much of Saturday, and Boston will be under a coastal flood watch Saturday morning and afternoon.

Meanwhile in Erie County, New York, which includes Buffalo, officials have declared a state of emergency starting Saturday due to the incoming storm and lake effect snow, county executive Mark Poloncarz announced.

Two to 3 feet of snow could hit the area Saturday afternoon through Monday, Poloncarz said in an X post Friday night, referencing data from the National Weather Service in Buffalo.

Fierce winds and tornadoes could strike the South as some states brace for cold: More than 50 million people in the South are under a severe storm threat Friday. The Southeast is at risk for damaging wind gusts, hail and tornadoes.

In Louisiana, where at least 30,000 people are under a winter storm watch, Gov. Jeff Landry announced a state of emergency in effect from Sunday through Wednesday.

Cold conditions, including light snow and freezing rain in northern Louisiana, will reach the state by Sunday and early next week, with temperatures expected to drop 20 to 30 degrees below normal.

A winter storm watch is also in effect for nearly all of Arkansas, where Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders declared a state of emergency Friday ahead of the bitter cold set to impact the state by Sunday. Temperatures will struggle to make it past the teens and low 20s for afternoon highs. For most of Arkansas, wind chills will be below zero, and as cold as -20 in northern parts of the state.

Flights are grounded: More than 2,000 flights to, from or within the US have been canceled Friday, the highest number since June 2023, according to The bulk of the cancellations are coming from Chicago, with 40% of departing flights at O’Hare and 60% at Midway cancelled.

What to expect in key cities


Alert: A winter storm warning is in effect until noon Saturday CT.

Snowfall: More than 8 inches of snow is expected, and snowfall rates could exceed 1 inch per hour.

Peak snowfall: The most intense snowfall is expected Friday morning and Saturday morning.

Winds: The strongest winds – between 25 to 45 mph – are expected Friday morning through Saturday.

What else to expect: Snow will mix with rain near Lake Michigan and limit snow accumulations after mid-Friday morning.

Des Moines, Iowa

Alerts: A blizzard warning will be in effect from 10 a.m. CT Friday to 6 p.m. CT Saturday. After that, a wind chill watch will be in effect from Saturday evening through Tuesday morning.

Snowfall: During the winter storm warning, 6 to 11 inches of snow is expected to accumulate. During the blizzard warning, when heavy snow combines with ferocious winds, life-threatening conditions are expected.

Winds: The strongest winds – between 30 to 45 mph – are expected Friday morning through Saturday.

Wind chill: Dangerously cold wind will occur with values as low as 30 to 45 below zero. The dangerously cold wind chills could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes.

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Alert: A winter storm warning is in effect until 7 p.m. ET Saturday.

Snowfall: Between 8 to 14 inches of snow is forecast.

Peak snowfall: The heaviest snowfall is expected from 1 to 6 p.m. ET Friday.

Winds: Wind gusts could reach 50 mph. Winds topping 40 mph are expected between noon and 7 p.m. ET Friday and again between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET Saturday.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Alert: A winter storm warning is in effect until noon CT Saturday.

Peak snowfall: The heaviest snowfall is expected to last until noon CT Friday

Snowfall: Expected snow accumulations include 3 to 7 inches along the lakeshore to 6 to 11 inches farther inland.

Winds: Strong winds exceeding 30 mph – sometimes gusting up to 45 mph – are forecast from Friday morning through Saturday.


Alert: A winter weather advisory is in effect until 6 a.m. CT Saturday.

Snowfall: Total snow accumulations could reach 4 to 7 inches.

Peak snowfall: The heaviest snowfall is expected between noon and 10 p.m. CT Friday.

Winds: Fierce winds of up to 35 mph are expected Friday afternoon through Saturday.

New York City

Alert: A coastal flood advisory is in effect for 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET Saturday.

Flood risk: 1 to locally 2 feet of inundation above ground level expected in vulnerable areas near the waterfront and shoreline.

“Runoff coinciding with the Saturday morning high tide will exacerbate street and property flooding issues along tidal portions of the Hackensack and Passaic Rivers in Bergen, Essex and Hudson Counties,” warns the weather service in New York.


Alert: A coastal flood warning is in effect from midnight Friday night to 7 p.m. Saturday.

Flood risk: 1 to 2 feet of inundation above ground level is expected in low-lying areas near shorelines and tidal waterways.

“At this level, widespread roadway flooding occurs along tidal waterways,” the weather service office in Philadelphia said. “Some roads become impassable. Minor damage to vulnerable structures may begin to occur.”


Alert: A coastal flood watch is in effect for Saturday morning and afternoon.

Flood risk: Up to 1 foot of flooding is possible.

Portland and Eastport, Maine

Flood risk: Water levels on Maine’s coast are forecast to hit historic highs on Saturday, threatening to inflict more damage on coastal communities still reeling from a storm that sent water surging onshore earlier this week.

Water levels at gauges from Portland to Eastport were forecast to top Wednesday’s levels that were swollen from the last storm, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The water level reached 15.49 feet in Bar Harbor Wednesday morning and is forecast to top 17 feet by noon Saturday. In Portland, the water is projected to top 14 feet Saturday morning, more than the record-high 13.84 feet set Wednesday morning.

State of emergency: Maine’s governor issued a state of civil emergency Thursday for all eight of the state’s coastal counties after the destructive storm surge this week.

“Significant rain, wind, and flooding have once again ravaged our state – this time our small communities up and down the coast,” Gov. Janet Mills said. “The damage we are seeing is devastating, from working waterfronts, to small businesses, to public roadways and more.”

This is a developing story and will be updated.

CNN’s Eric Zerkel, Taylor Ward, Mary Gilbert, Dave Alsup, Joe Sutton and Sara Smart contributed to this report.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN-Weather/Environment

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