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News updates from December 23: Congress gives final approval to massive $1.7tn spending bill, Winter storm leaves 1mn US households without power

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More than 1mn households are without power in the US as a historic winter storm blasts across the country ahead of the holiday weekend.

More than 200mn people, about 60 per cent of the US population, were under some form of winter weather warning or advisory as of Friday morning, the National Weather Service said, describing it as among the “greatest extents” of winter weather warnings ever recorded.

“It’s been a blockbuster. There’s been widespread impacts across most of the country,” said Ashton Robinson Cook, a meteorologist at the National Weather Center, adding that numerous temperature records have been broken.

The winter storm has caused disruptions on one of the busiest travel days of the year. More than 4,000 flights have been cancelled within, into, or out of the US on Friday, according to FlightAware.

Most households without power are concentrated in North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Maine, according to data from PowerOutage.us.

News that Freeport LNG, a liquefied natural gas export plant and large consumer of gas in the US, would restart in mid-January, two weeks later than planned, helped keep a lid on gas prices. The US natural gas benchmark, Henry Hub, was up only 3 per cent in intraday trading on Friday despite fears of surging demand meeting a drop in supply due to freezing temperatures.

Some regional markets saw leaps in spot prices as a deep freeze set in. Prices for natural gas in the Northeast rose 360 per cent in a single day yesterday, closing at $30.16. Prices in New York have also more than quadrupled.

The US Energy Information Administration warned Americans would pay higher prices for home heating this winter, with natural gas customers paying 28 per cent more for heating year-over-year.

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