Just before Christmas, a ‘once-in-a-generation’ storm shuts down the US, disrupting travel.
DThousands of flights delayed or canceled as Christmas approaches, freezing temperatures and heavy snow: The first effects of the ‘once-in-a-generation’ storm were felt across much of the US on Thursday.
Conditions are too dangerous to move around, officials warn. But millions of Americans will have to flood roads and airports for the holiday season. “Please take this storm very seriously,” urged President Joe Biden. “I encourage everyone (…) to listen to the warnings at the local level,” he added. “It’s serious”.
Several states have declared states of emergency, including New York, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Georgia and North Carolina. Americans will shiver as far south as Texas.
Roads across the country were already covered in snow and several accidents were reported by the media. I-90, a major highway that crosses the northern United States, was closed in the state of South Dakota and officials warned it would not reopen until Friday.
“Several secondary roads are currently listed as ‘impassable road’… deep snow and widespread snow have made travel on the road section physically impossible,” the Dakota Transportation Authority said on its website Thursday. The National Weather Service (NWS) warned that the National Weather Service has seen impressive temperature drops “in an hour or less.”
Wyoming law enforcement officials released clear footage of the blizzard, taken Wednesday from inside the car of one of their officers. Outside, nothing can be seen: “zero visibility”, they explain.
More than 5,500 flights were canceled and 24,000 were delayed Thursday, according to flight tracking site FlightAware. Chicago and Denver airports were particularly hard hit. According to officials, the snow and wind will cause blizzards in some places, making any movement “dangerous or at times impossible”.
Canada was also hit with “unseasonably low temperatures”, heavy snowfall and freezing rain in some areas. In Quebec, for example, officials have encouraged residents to “prepare emergency plans and carry emergency kits containing drinking water, food, medicine, a first aid kit and a torch pocket.” The nation’s main airport, Toronto, saw more flight delays and cancellations.
Frostbite and hypothermia
The ice front in the United States should strengthen by Friday and continue through the Christmas weekend. Its power led the NWS in Buffalo, New York to call it a “once-in-a-generation storm.” The Midwest and Great Lakes regions will be especially vulnerable to snowstorms this weekend. The Great Plains region is expected to experience temperatures as low as -55ºC.
“Cold temperatures of this magnitude can cause frostbite to exposed skin within minutes, and prolonged exposure can cause hypothermia and death,” the NWS warned. Wind gusts of up to 80 km/h could uproot trees and cause power outages.
The cold has prompted some to engage in the “boiling water challenge,” or boiling water challenge: They post videos in which they throw extremely hot water into the air, causing it to immediately crystallize.
Private weather site AccuWeather has warned that a “bomb cyclone” could develop, formed when polar air meets warmer air, causing a very rapid drop in pressure. But starting Thursday, millions of Americans are expected at airports across the country, with this year’s holiday season expected to be “busier” than 2021, with a return to “pre-pandemic levels,” according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). )
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