Deadly winter weather keeps icy grip across much of the US

By Steve Gorman

(Reuters) – Winter storms and biting cold that have gripped much of the United States in recent days with deadly consequences are expected to persist through this weekend, the National Weather Service (NWS) reported on Saturday.

Even as frigid temperatures were forecast across two-thirds of the country for the days ahead, along with snow, freezing rain and heavy showers, CBS News said it has tallied 83 confirmed weather-related U.S. fatalities over the past week.

Tennessee accounted for 19 lost lives attributed to severe weather, and Oregon 16 more, CBS reported, including three people who died of apparent electrocution from a power line that fell onto the vehicle they were riding in on Wednesday.

The remainder of the fatalities were reported across at least eight other states, including Illinois, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Washington, Kentucky, New York and New Jersey, according to CBS.

The Pacific Northwest and parts of the South have borne the brunt of extreme winter weather during the past week, as homes and businesses consumed record amounts of natural gas for heating and power generation due to severe cold.

That pattern was continuing through the weekend with hard-freeze warnings posted on Saturday across a large swath of the Gulf Region, extending from eastern Texas and Louisiana through much of Mississippi, Alabama and parts of Florida and Georgia. Wind-chill factors as low as zero-degrees Fahrenheit were forecast in Mississippi for Saturday night.

The NWS said a new cold air mass building over the nation’s midsection would send temperatures plunging 20 to 30 degrees below average from the High Plains east into the Ohio and Tennessee valleys by Monday evening.

Snow was forecast downwind of the Great Lakes and over parts of the central Appalachians and the Northeast through Sunday evening.

Meanwhile, winter weather advisories were in effect for much of the Pacific Northwest, expected to be hit with another round freezing rain and showers. Snow was expected in the Sierra Nevada mountains, with heavy rains and a chance of flash flooding predicted for the lower elevations of northern California.

Downpours could extend into Southern California on Monday, the NWS said.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Nick Zieminski)