By Nouran Salahieh and Joe Sutton, CNN
Communities on the West Coast and in the Northeast are dealing with heavy snowfall, strong winds, power outages and dangerous road conditions from a series of storms lashing opposite sides of the US.
About 23 million people are under winter weather alerts across the country Tuesday. Some alerts remain in place in the Northeast as snow continues to fall across interior portions of New York and New England.
But most are for areas in the West — including blizzard warnings for the Sierras — while a powerful storm is bringing heavy snow at lower elevations including the Portland and Seattle areas.
In Southern California, some residents of mountain communities were left stranded as snow-covered roads became too dangerous to navigate.
In the East, a storm that has already brought tornadoes, damaging winds and hail to the central US is moving north. The system will spread further into northern New England on Tuesday as cold air moves over the region and brings 4 to 8 inches of snow, according to the National Weather Service.
New York City is no longer under any winter weather alerts after it recorded its biggest snow event of a nearly snowless season. Central Park recorded 1.8 inches of snow from the storm by 7 a.m. Tuesday, bringing the total for this winter to 2.2 inches. That’s the lowest seasonal snowfall on record for the park, which is more than 2 feet below its normal seasonal snowfall.
Areas outside the city got between 2 and 4 inches of snow overnight and could get up to 6 inches by the time the system moves out.
The snow will continue falling throughout the day in upstate New York and parts of New England, with widespread totals up to 8 inches possible and some isolated areas getting even more.
In Rhode Island, where Gov. Daniel McKee warned of a difficult morning commute, all Providence schools were closed Tuesday. Connecticut also announced closures of schools in Hartford as well as all state office buildings as the state readied for a significant snowstorm to come through that could bring heavy snowfall of 5 to 7 inches and isolated amounts up to 10 inches.
South of the freeze line, Philadelphia is forecast to see rainy conditions Tuesday.
More than 210,000 homes and businesses across the US were without power Tuesday, mainly in Michigan and California, according to PowerOutage.us.
Mountain communities running low on supplies
On the West Coast, back-to-back winter storms have left some residents in Southern California’s San Bernardino County stranded since last week with dwindling supplies of food and fuel, officials said.
The county declared a local emergency Monday after several feet of snow left mountain roads nearly impassable. “Residents of mountain communities found themselves trapped at home or unable to reach home due to several feet of snow that fell over the weekend, with more to follow during the next several days,” a news release from the county said.
Crews have been working to create single-lane pathways for first responders but are seeking state and federal assistance clearing the snow, the news release said.
In Blue Jay, in the San Bernardino Mountains, Lisa Griggs walks 20-30 minutes through several feet of snow to get to the nearest grocery store, she told CNN. On Monday, the manager told her the store was running low on food, she said.
Rick Varikian was visiting his sister in Blue Jay when he got stuck there by the snow with three other adult family members and six children, he told CNN.
“My car doesn’t work and there’s no fuel at all,” Varikian said. “There’s 10 of us right now in the house and we’re running low on food.”
“We’re getting to the end of where we can be comfortable just feeding our child,” a Crestline, California, resident told CNN affiliate KCBS/KCAL. “It’s frustrating.”
Both Griggs and Varikian are hoping help will make its way up the mountain soon.
“We need manpower. We can’t do this by ourselves. We’re not used to this much snow. Thank god we still have electricity and internet so we can at least communicate and let the people know what’s going on up here,” Griggs said.
More than 600 Orange County middle school students were among those stuck in the San Bernardino mountains after getting snowed in while attending camps last week. The students were supposed to return home Friday but were stranded over the weekend until the California Highway Patrol escorted buses down the mountain so they could reunite with their families, according to an Irvine Unified School District spokeswoman.
Two more rounds of heavy snow are expected in the Sierra Nevada and Northern California over the next few days, with snowfall rates over 2 inches per hour and wind gusts up to 60 mph forecast, the weather service said. In the higher mountain ranges, snowfall amounts over a foot are likely.
An avalanche warning is in effect through Wednesday morning for the central Sierra Nevada, including the Lake Tahoe area.
Heavy snow will make it as far east as the Colorado Rockies and as far south as northern Arizona, bringing hazardous travel conditions Tuesday and Wednesday, the weather service said.
Dangerous to ‘impossible’ travel
Snow and wind will combine in the Sierra Nevada to create blizzard conditions and make travel “very dangerous to impossible,” the weather service warned.
“If you plan to travel by road at elevations above 1,000 feet through West Coast states, be prepared for rapidly changing conditions and have winter driving supplies,” the service said.
Interstate 80 at the California-Nevada state line was closed Monday night due to whiteout conditions.
California Highway Patrol in Truckee tweeted that officers were responding to drivers stuck in snow all day Tuesday, warning drivers not to try to drive I-80 over Donner Summit.
“Travel conditions are extremely dangerous with zero visibility and blizzard conditions! Stay home and don’t put your life in danger!!,” CHP said.
In Oregon, a section of the 5 Freeway was closed, with the weather service there warning that patchy blowing snow could significantly reduce visibility.
With the risk of getting trapped in a car on a snowy road a reality, officials are urging those who venture onto the roads to be prepared.
“Bring chains and know how to use them. Bring an emergency kit that includes warm clothes, snacks and water in case you are delayed. Make sure your vehicle is ready with good tires and working wiper blades,” the Oregon Department of Transportation said.
At least 11 school districts in northwest Oregon were closed due to heavy snow and winter weather warnings.
Tornadoes wallop Central US
As the Northeast and West Coast prepare for more snow, residents in Central US are recovering from tornadoes and severe winds.
The central US tallied 14 tornado reports Sunday — including nine in Oklahoma — and another five in Illinois on Monday.
In Oklahoma, the storm ripped roofs off homes, flipped cars, downed trees and littered neighborhoods with debris. As many as 12 people have been reported injured in the state.
There were 185 storm reports Sunday across the Southern Plains, mainly of strong winds across Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma. That number includes 15 tornado reports and 15 hail reports, with several hailstones reportedly 1.75 inches in diameter.
Weather experts will work to determine whether the system can be classified as a derecho, a widespread, long-lived windstorm, which typically causes damage in one direction across a relatively straight path.
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CNN’s Taylor Romine, Robert Shackleford and Caroll Alvarado contributed to this report.