A historic “bomb cyclone” began sweeping the nation Wednesday, dumping snow on roads from the Midwest to the East Coast and disrupting one of the busiest travel weeks of the year.
Heavy snow, ice and strong gusts of wind hit several states as 150 million Americans braced for sub-zero temperatures all the way to the Gulf Coast in the crippling Arctic blast, Fox Weather reported.
The Federal Aviation Administration warned travelers to find out about flight delays in Minneapolis. Strong winds could also delay flights in Chicago and Denver.
Delta, American, United, Frontier, Alaska, Southwest and other airlines waived change fees and offered travelers the option to choose new flights to avoid the inclement weather.
As of 5:30 p.m. Wednesday night, 441 US flights had been canceled, with another 791 flights canceled tomorrow and 571 on Friday, according to flight-tracking website FlightAware.
Airports said they were working hard to stay open. Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports said they had 350 pieces of equipment and 400,000 gallons of pavement deicing fluid between them to keep runways and taxiways clear.
Bus and train passengers also expected cancellations and delays.
Earlier this month, AAA estimated that nearly 113 million Americans would travel 50 miles or more from home between December 23 and January 2 — a 4% increase from the year before, but still just short of the record 119 million in 2019. Most plan to travel by car, AAA reported, and about 6% plan to travel by plane.
Nearly 200 million Americans are bracing for “life-threatening” freezing temperatures due to the massive storm system, according to the National Weather Service.
Fox Weather reported nearly 92 million people are on cold alert, and more in the east are likely to follow as the storm progresses later in the week.
Wind chill alerts currently extend from the US-Canadian border to the Texas Gulf Coast, including portions of at least 26 states. Wind chills could drop as low as minus 60 degrees in the Great Plains and 30 degrees in the Midwest, with forecasts of high winds and snow already making vacation travel difficult.
“Much of the country will experience dangerous cold over the next few days, and it will arrive suddenly with a powerful arctic front,” the National Weather Service Prediction Center said warned in a tweet. “Travel can be difficult immediately behind the front lines as gusts of snow and gusty winds cause sudden whiteouts, flash freezes and icy roads.”
The “bomb cyclone” could be a one-off weather event, officials said.
A bomb cyclone is a term used by meteorologists to describe a rapidly strengthening storm — typically when a storm system’s central pressure drops by at least 24 millibars in 24 hours, Fox Weather explained.
“High pressure just parked over Canada’s Northwest Territories is sucking up this cold air from the poles in the Arctic and then pushing it all the way down and into the northern Rockies, Dakotas and upper Midwest,” FOX said -Weather forecaster Steve Bender. “A developing center of low pressure over the Great Lakes will then tap into that arctic air and accelerate it down to the southern plains.”
After spending days stunning the Midwest, the biting cold air will move south and east Thursday into Friday, according to Fox Weather.
North Carolina and Kentucky have already declared states of emergency, with Georgia to follow.
Many states have warned residents to prepare for power outages, and officials are warning residents to check on their elderly relatives and neighbors and stay off the streets if possible.
According to the National Weather Service, “cold temperatures of this magnitude could cause frostbite on exposed skin within minutes, and hypothermia and death if exposure is prolonged.”
“Areas like Oklahoma, Arkansas, north Texas and north Louisiana, and the Mississippi Delta — you need to prepare for the cold as well as possible power outages because the gusts of wind will be quite strong, along with the possibility of a freeze,” Bender said.
In the Northeast, forecasters said New York City and surrounding suburbs should expect rain this coming weekend that risks freezing quickly and causing slick and dangerous road conditions.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said Tuesday it expects nearly 11 million passengers and vehicles to use its airports and crossings from Friday, December 23, 2022 through Monday, January 2, 2023.
With postal wires
https://nypost.com/2022/12/21/bomb-cyclone-wreaks-havoc-across-us-disrupts-holiday-travel-plans/ ‘Bomb Cyclone’ devastates US and disrupts vacation travel plans