Wicked winter storm threatens US holiday travel chaos

WASHINGTON: A “new one-of-a-kind” winter storm is threatening Wednesday that will wreak havoc on the holiday travel plans of millions of Americans.
The National Weather Service (NWS) warned that the storm would create “numerous weather hazards,” including life-threatening snowstorms and cold winds, across the north, central and eastern parts of the country.
Airlines are asking travelers to brace for delays and cancellations as a cold arc of arctic air blankets the Northern Plains on Wednesday, sweeping across the Midwest and toward the East Coast on the Friday just before Christmas.
“This won’t be your average cold snap as temperatures can drop 20 degrees or more within hours,” the NWS said, bringing “record cold temperatures” for the Gulf Coast and east United States on Friday.
It said the Great Lakes area could get more than a foot (30.5 cm) of snow.
“Cold wind values ​​could drop as low as minus 70 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 57 degrees Celsius) across parts of the central High Plains,” the NWS said, warning that “coldness of this magnitude could leads to frostbite on exposed skin within minutes.”
“Prepare for extreme cold now and make sure animals and livestock outdoors have enough shelter,” it said.
The NWS said gusts of more than 50 miles (80 km) an hour and snow would lead to blizzard conditions from the northern and central plains to the Great Lakes, creating “extremely hazardous travel conditions for both drivers and air travelers.”
The storm came as the Transportation Security Administration said it expected holiday travel volumes to be close to pre-pandemic levels, with the busiest day being Thursday.
The American Automobile Association estimates that more than 112 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home between Friday and January 2, the vast majority – 102 million – by car.
The Federal Aviation Administration warned that high winds and heavy snow could slow flights at major air travel hubs Minneapolis-St. Paul, Chicago and Denver.
In Denver, for example, temperatures are expected to plummet from a high of about 50 degrees Fahrenheit on Wednesday to minus 16 degrees Fahrenheit on Thursday.
Authorities in the Colorado capital opened the Denver Coliseum as an emergency heating center.
AccuWeather forecasters said the storm could rapidly strengthen into a “bomb cyclone” through a process known as “bomb formation,” when atmospheric pressure drops and a mass of air falls. cold collides with a warm air mass.
The NWS in Buffalo, New York called it a “once in a millennium storm” with gusts above 65 mph, winds of 10 to 20 degrees below zero, and scattered or possibly widespread power outages.
Weather forecasters in Minneapolis described it as a “life-threatening event” and “needs to be taken seriously”.
In Fort Worth, Texas, the NWS told residents that the cold snap isn’t expected to be as devastating as last February, when freezing temperatures knocked millions of people out of power in the Lone Star State and left dozens of people without power. die.
And in Washington, lawmakers are scrambling to finalize a $1.7 trillion spending package before a major winter storm complicates travel plans.


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