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Deep Frost Grips the United States as a Winter ‘bomb Cyclone’ Threatens the Holiday Weekend
A severe frost engulfing most of the United States early Friday coincided with a large winter storm forming in the Midwest to place two-thirds of the country under extreme weather warnings, causing millions of Americans’ travel plans to be disrupted.
The approaching storm was expected to intensify into a “bomb cyclone,” dumping heavy, blinding snow from the northern Plains and Great Lakes region to the upper Mississippi Valley and western New York. The numbing cold, exacerbated by powerful winds, was forecast to reach as far south as the US-Mexico border.
Hard-freeze warnings were issued for the Gulf Coast states of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida, while a second arctic blast striking the Pacific Northwest could cause considerable icing. The National Weather Service (NWS) claimed that by late Thursday, most of the Lower 48 states, from Washington state to Florida, were under wind-chill alerts, blizzard warnings, or other winter weather advisories, affecting more than 200 million people, or roughly 60% of the U.S. population.
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The NWS map of current or imminent wintry risks, which stretches from border to border and coast to coast, “depicts one of the biggest extents of winter weather warnings and advisories ever,” according to the agency. The bomb cyclone could drop half an inch (1.25 cm) of snow each hour, driven by gale-force winds, reducing visibility to near zero, according to the weather agency.
Wind chill factors as low as 40 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (minus 40 Celsius) were expected in the High Plains, northern Rockies, and Great Basin, when combined with the arctic cold, according to the NWS. Without sufficient protection, exposure to such circumstances might result in frostbite within minutes.
High winds, heavy snow, and ice, as well as the strain of higher-than-usual energy needs, were likely to cause power outages. One of the most immediate consequences, even before the storm completely formed, was the disruption of commercial aviation traffic during the busy holiday travel season.
According to flight-tracking service FlightAware, over 5,000 flights in the United States were canceled on Thursday and Friday, with two major airports in Chicago responsible for nearly 1,300 of the cancellations. One potential vacationer, Brandon Mattis, 24, said his trip from New York City to Atlanta was canceled due to the approaching storm on Thursday, leaving him “flustered” at LaGuardia Airport in Queens.
Mattis stated that he looked for alternative routes and was considering a 21-hour bus journey to Atlanta. “Anything we can do to get there, we’ll do,” he told Reuters. The American Automobile Association reported that 112.7 million people intended to travel 50 miles (80 kilometers) or more from home between December 23 and January 2, up 3.6 million from the previous year and approaching pre-pandemic levels.
However, due to hazardous weather leading up to the weekend, air and road transport were anticipated to be reduced. Even US Vice President Joe Biden warned Americans not to go outside after Thursday, calling the approaching storm “dangerous and menacing.”
“This is not like a snow day when you were a kid,” he said in remarks at the White House on Thursday. The high cold also posed a special risk to cattle in ranching-heavy areas of the country. Tyson Foods Inc, the nation’s largest meat producer by sales, announced a reduction in operations to protect personnel and animals.
The meteorological service predicted that reprieve from the harsh freeze will arrive in the northern Rockies and High Plains, where the arctic blast initially appeared on Thursday. Temperatures in those areas might rise by 40 to 60 degrees this weekend as the cold air mass moves further east.
(Writing and reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; editing by Stephen Coates; additional reporting by Tyler Clifford, Rich McKay, Laila Kearney, Lisa Baertlein, Julia Harte, Nandita Bose, Scott DiSavino, Tom Polansek, and PJ Huffstutter.