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Dozens of deaths linked to winter storms across the United States

An electrical worker walks through melting ice and snow on Thursday to help restore power in Portland, Ore., after a winter storm. (Jenny Kane/AP)
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Dozens of deaths have been linked to winter weather across the United States this month. Frigid temperatures and strong winds tore down trees and electrical wires, sparked fires and led to suspected cases of fatal hypothermia across at least seven states.

Twenty-seven weather-related deaths have been reported across 14 counties in Tennessee, according to the state’s health department.

In Oregon, at least nine weather-related deaths were recorded in the past week, including an incident in Portland in which a young pregnant woman, her teenage brother and her boyfriend were electrocuted after exiting a vehicle that had been hit by a fallen tree branch and live electrical wire. An infant was rescued from the scene.

In another incident, a tree fell onto an RV in Portland, trapping a woman in her 30s inside as the vehicle became engulfed in flames. Investigators found that those inhabiting the RV were using an open-flame stove to warm themselves. Emergency responders also found a transformer, a utility pole and multiple live wires on top of the vehicle when they arrived, with the nearest fire hydrant frozen. Three others escaped the RV, with one suffering injuries that were not life-threatening.

Much of the contiguous United States was hit with an Arctic blast this month, bringing temperatures as low as minus-40 in the northern Plains and prompting at least 30 states to enact some type of alert for dangerously cold temperatures. Storms wrought chaos as far south as Texas and Florida, bringing temperatures far below average lows for this time of year and creating conditions for a tornado that ripped through the city of Port St. Lucie, Fla. A map from the National Weather Service showed significant snowfall from Tennessee to Maine.

In photos: Winter storm blasts across the United States

Winter storms have also been linked to deaths in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Nebraska and Wisconsin this month, authorities in those states said. The Associated Press additionally reported weather-related deaths in Kentucky, Washington and Louisiana.

Earlier this month, the Federal Aviation Administration warned on several occasions that storms throughout the United States were likely to cause flight cancellations and delays, sharing photos of snow-covered airport runways in several parts of the country. More than 7,600 flights in the United States were delayed on Jan. 12 alone, Reuters reported.

Hundreds of thousands of U.S. customers also suffered total power outages during the worst of the month’s storms, with large portions of the country affected, from Maine to Georgia and beyond.

How the polar vortex could bring winter back with a vengeance

Temperatures this week are expected to rise 30 to 40 degrees, thawing large swaths of the Ozarks, the southern Plains and the Mid-South. The northern Plains will see highs spike 15 to 20 degrees above normal by Tuesday — but the more mild weather may eventually give way to colder temperatures in coming weeks, depending on several factors, including the evolution of the polar vortex and the ongoing El Niño.

Matthew Cappucci, Daniel Wu, Justine McDaniel and Ben Brasch contributed to this report.