Deep Frost Grips U.S. Before Holiday Weekend 'Bomb Cyclone'

Deep Frost Grips U.S. Before Holiday Weekend ‘Bomb Cyclone’

Deep Frost Grips U.S. Before Holiday Weekend ‘Bomb Cyclone’: Millions of Americans’ travel plans were disrupted by the intense cold that blanketed most of the country early on Friday and the large winter storm developing in the Midwest, placing two-thirds of the country under extreme weather alerts.

The impending storm was expected to intensify into a “bomb cyclone” over Christmas, dumping heavy, blinding snow from the northern Plains and Great Lakes region to the upper Mississippi Valley and western New York.

High winds and numbing cold were predicted to reach as far south as the border between the United States and Mexico. The Gulf Coast states of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida all had hard-freeze warnings, while a second arctic blast that reached the Pacific Northwest could cause significant icing.

More than 200 million people, or over 60% of the U.S. population, were under wind-chill alerts, blizzard warnings, or other winter weather advisories by late Thursday across the majority of the Lower 48 states, extending from Florida to Washington state.

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From border to border and coast to coast, the NWS map of current or imminent wintry threats “depicts one of the widest extents of winter weather warnings and advisories ever,” the agency stated. According to the weather service, the bomb cyclone may produce snowfalls of up to half an inch (1.25 cm) per hour, reducing visibility to almost nothing.

The High Plains, the northern Rockies, and the Great Basin were expected to see wind-chill levels as low as 40 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (minus 40 degrees Celsius) when combined with the arctic cold, according to the NWS. Without the proper clothing, exposure to these conditions can result in frostbite within minutes.

High gusts, a lot of snow and ice, and the stress of higher-than-usual energy needs were all expected to cause power outages. The disruption of commercial aviation traffic during the busy holiday travel season was one of the storm’s most noticeable initial effects, even before it fully developed.

MILLIONS OF FLIGHTS WERE CANCELLED

According to flight-tracking service FlightAware, more than 5,000 U.S. flights booked for Thursday and Friday were canceled, with roughly 1,300 cancellations occurring at two major airports in Chicago.

One potential vacationer, Brandon Mattis, 24, said on Thursday that the impending storm caused his trip from New York City to Atlanta to be canceled, leaving him “flustered” at LaGuardia Airport in Queens. Mattis claimed to have looked at a 21-hour bus excursion to Atlanta as an alternative. He told Reuters, “We’re going to do anything we can simply to get there.”

According to the American Automobile Association, 112.7 million people intended to travel more than 50 miles (80 km) from home between December 23 and January 2. This increased by 3.6 million travelers from the previous year and is approaching pre-pandemic levels.

However, due to hazardous weather leading up to the weekend, air and road travel was anticipated to reduce that number. Even American President Biden advised citizens to exercise caution following Thursday, describing the storm as “dangerous and scary.” This is serious stuff, not like a snow day when you were a kid, he remarked in remarks on Thursday at the White House.

In areas of the country with a high ranching density, the harsh cold also posed a particular risk to animals. Tyson Foods Inc., the nation’s largest meat producer by sales, declared that it had reduced production to safeguard workers and animals.

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The northern Rockies and High Plains, where the arctic blast initially formed on Thursday, were expected to have relief from the extreme cold, according to the weather service. As the cold air mass moves further east, temperatures in some areas of those regions might rise by 40 to 60 degrees during the weekend.

(Steve Gorman wrote and reported from Los Angeles; Tyler Clifford, Rich McKay, Laila Kearney, Lisa Baertlein, Julia Harte, Nandita Bose, Scott DiSavino, Tom Polansek, and PJ Huffstutter contributed as well; Stephen Coates edited the piece.)