Dangerous winter storm could disrupt holiday travel for millions of Americans: “This is serious stuff”

Thousands of flights were canceled and homeless shelters were overflowing Thursday amid one of the is treacherous holiday travel seasons that the US has seen in decades, with temperatures dropping 50 degrees Fahrenheit in some areas and forecasters warning of “bomb cyclone” which could make conditions even worse before Christmas.

Frigid air was moving through the central United States to the east, with wind chill advisories affecting about 135 million people over the next few days, National Weather Service meteorologist Ashton Robinson Cook said Thursday. Places like Des Moines, Iowa, will feel minus 37 degrees, making it possible to suffer frostbite in less than five minutes.

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Blizzard warnings are in effect for many states, from Montana to New York, Weather Channel meteorologist Chris Warren said.

“With widespread winds, stronger than 50 mph at times, there could be widespread power outages, and when you think about the cold that’s on the way, it’s nothing you want to deal with,” said Warren.

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Whiteout conditions wreaked havoc from Colorado, east to Wyoming, and north to Minnesota. The Wyoming Highway Patrol handled 787 calls for help and 104 crashes in a 12-hour period.

There was already widespread disruption to flights and train travel. Through Thursday afternoon, more than 5,700 flights were canceled, and more than 24,700 were delayed, according to FlightAware. Airports in Chicago and Denver were reporting the most cancellations.

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“Today is a very challenging day for Delta crews, which is being exacerbated by a free rain event in the Pacific Northwest,” Delta spokeswoman Morgan Durrant told CBS News on Thursday. “Tomorrow, our Detroit hub will face the challenges of an overnight forecast change from rain to snow.”

Unexpected light snow in the Dallas area forced de-icing operations at Dallas Fort Worth International and Dallas Love Field airports, further delaying it.

Winter storm, Minneapolis, December 2022
High winds blow about 7.5 inches of new snow at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport as workers prepare a Sun Country Airlines plane for takeoff on Dec. 22, 2022.

David Joles/Star Tribune via Getty Images

“This is not like a snow day when you were a kid,” President Joe Biden warned Thursday in the Oval Office after a briefing from federal officials. “This is serious stuff.”

Forecasters expected a bomb cyclone – when atmospheric pressure drops very quickly in a strong storm – late Thursday and into Friday near the Great Lakes. That will trigger blizzard conditions, including high winds and snow, Cook said.

In South Dakota, Rosebud Sioux Tribe emergency manager Robert Oliver said tribal authorities are working to clear roads to deliver propane and firewood to homes, but are facing relentless winds that have created flash floods. over 10 feet in some places.

“This weather and the amount of equipment we have – we don’t have enough,” Oliver said, noting that rescues of people trapped in their homes had to be halted early Thursday when the hydraulic fluid in heavy equipment froze. among 41 below. zero windshield.

He said five people have died in recent storms, including last week’s blizzard.

Winter storm, Minneapolis, December 2022
A man shovels the sidewalk while another clears the snow with a power sweeper Dec. 22, 2022 in downtown Minneapolis.

Alex Kormann/Star Tribune via Getty Images

In Texas, temperatures were expected to drop quickly on Thursday, but state leaders vowed to avoid a repeat of the February 2021 storm. that exceeded the state’s power grid and was blamed for hundreds of deaths. But, the many stranded migrants who were living and sleeping on the streets of El Paso.

Department of Homeland Security Thursday warning migrants not to cross the US-Mexico border, saying that “severe weather will force temperatures to dangerously low levels this week.”

The cold weather extended across the border to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, where migrants camped outside or filled shelters as they await a decision on whether the US will lift restrictions that have prevented many from seeking asylum.

Elsewhere in the US, authorities worried about the possibility of power outages and warned people to take precautions to protect the elderly and the homeless and livestock – and, if possible, to postpone travel. Some utilities were urging customers to turn down their thermostats to conserve energy.

“This event could be life-threatening if you are stranded,” according to an online post from the National Weather Service in Minnesota, where officials reported multiple crashes.

In Kansas City, Missouri, one person died after a vehicle flipped into an icy lake, police said.

Texas Power Grid To Be Tested With Oncoming Winter Chill
A transmission tower at a power plant near the Energy Research Park facility on December 22, 2022 in Houston, Texas.


Michigan State Police prepared to deploy additional troopers to assist motorists. And along a toll road on Interstate 90 in northern Indiana, crews were braced to clear as much as a foot of snow as meteorologists warned of storm conditions there Thursday afternoon.

“If you’re trying to go to someone’s house for the holidays and you don’t have one left right now it could get dicey soon,” said Rick Fedder, chief operating officer of ITR Concession Co., the private operator of the toll- road

The School District of Philadelphia, the largest in Pennsylvania, announced that the final classes of the calendar year on Friday would be held online rather than in person as scheduled. In Allegheny County in the west of the state, public works spokesman Brent Wasko said officials would deploy 33 salt trucks but that pretreating the roads was not an option because of the expected rain Thursday night and Friday morning. the salt away.

Some states were expecting to see wind chills below zero


Meanwhile, Amtrak canceled service on more than 20 routes, mostly in the Midwest.

Several shelters in the Detroit area were already at capacity but still making room.

“We’re not sending anyone back into this cold,” Aisha Morrell-Ferguson, spokeswoman for COTS, a family-only shelter, told the Detroit News.

And in Portland, Oregon, officials opened four emergency shelters. In the city centre, Steven Venus tried to get on a light rail train to escape the cold after wandering the pavement overnight in sub-zero temperatures.

“My toes were freezing,” he said, a sleeping bag wrapped around his head, as he paused next to an unfurnished tent sheltering another homeless person.

Courtney Dodds, spokeswoman for the Union Gospel Mission, said teams from her organization were going out trying to convince people to seek shelter.

“It can be very easy for people to give up and fall asleep and end up losing their lives because of the cold weather.”

In Montana, the temperature dropped as low as 50 below zero at Elk Park, a mountain pass on the Continental Divide. Schools and some ski areas were closed, and thousands of people lost power.

Near Big Sandy, Montana, rancher Rich Roth said he wasn’t too worried about his 3,500 pregnant cows braving the cold weather, saying “they’re pretty dang resilient animals.”

In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine warned of a “unique and dangerous” flash freeze situation Thursday night across the state. He also encouraged people to check on their neighbors and relatives.

In notoriously snowy Buffalo, New York, forecasters predicted a “once-in-a-generation storm” with heavy snow on the lake, wind gusts as high as 65 mph, lightning and the potential for widespread power outages. Mayor Byron Brown urged people to stay home, and the NHL postponed the Buffalo Sabres’ home game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Denver, no stranger to winter storms, had its coldest Thursday in 32 years, when the temperature dropped to minus 24 this morning at the airport.

In Charleston, South Carolina, a coastal flood warning was in effect Thursday. The area, which is very popular among tourists due to the mild winter, had strong winds and freezing temperatures.

The winter weather extended into Canada, which is why delays and cancellationss earlier in the week at Vancouver International Airport. A major winter storm was expected Friday into Saturday in Toronto, where wind gusts as high as 60 mph were forecast to cause blowing snow and limited visibility, Environment Canada said.


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