A powerful winter storm is expected to blanket much of the United States with heavy snow and life-threatening wind chill.
The storm is set to hit the U.S. on Wednesday, potentially sparking holiday travel chaos for millions of Americans.
National Weather Service forecaster Bob Oravec said about 200 million people were under extreme weather alerts as cold air descended from the northern plains, causing temperatures to drop sharply.
“Temperatures can drop rapidly, sometimes 50 degrees or more below the previous day,” he said, adding “it’s a very robust system”.
this stormThe upper Midwest could see up to a foot of snow between Wednesday and Friday, driven by moisture from the Great Lakes, with blizzard conditions stretching from the northern Plains states to the Great Lakes region.
A powerful arctic front across the Great Lakes could form a so-called “bomb cyclone” by Thursday night, causing a sharp drop in pressure over a 24-hour period that could drop temperatures to record lows on the Gulf Coast and the U.S., Oravec said , into Florida and the eastern US on Friday.
Heavy rainfall, strong winds and potentially dangerous coastal flooding are expected to hit parts of the northeast coastline and New England on Thursday and Friday before an arctic front arrives and creates ice, the weather service said. Up to 7.6 centimeters of rain is expected.
Officials warned that the weather would cause significant travel disruptions. The Bureau of Meteorology has warned that wet roads could freeze suddenly as temperatures drop by more than 11C (20F) in a matter of hours.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told MSNBC: “We had a great Thanksgiving week with very little disruption. Christmas, unfortunately, won’t be like that.”
Americans traveling by air should be prepared for delays and plan flexibly, while drivers also need to be prepared for severe weather, he added.
Southwest Airlines said it canceled 500 of its 4,000 scheduled flights on Thursday and Friday. The company said it wanted to maintain safe operations for passengers and crew.
At least 145 flights in and out of Denver International Airport were canceled Wednesday as the city was battered by snow, high winds and freezing temperatures, according to flight tracking company FlightAware. At least 219 flights in and out of Denver are expected to be canceled Thursday.
FlightAware also expects at least 364 canceled flights Thursday at Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports. Earlier this week, the two airports said they had 350 snow removal equipment and 400,000 gallons of road deicing fluid on hand for the storm.
Delta, American, United, Frontier, Alaska Airlines, Southwest and others are waiving change fees and offering travelers the option to choose new flights to avoid bad weather.