Thousands of flights delayed or canceled before Christmas, freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall: the first effects of a ‘once in a generation’ storm could be felt on Thursday in large parts of the United States. Very dangerous conditions to drive in, the authorities warn. But millions of Americans must flood roads and airports during the holiday season.
“Please take this storm extremely seriously,” urged President Joe Biden. “I urge everyone (…) to heed the warnings at the local level,” he added. Several states have declared states of emergency, including New York, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Georgia and North Carolina. Americans will shake as far south as Texas. Roads were already covered in snow across the country and many accidents were reported by the media.
I-90, a major highway through the northern United States, was closed in the state of South Dakota after authorities had warned it would not reopen until Friday. “Several secondary roads are currently listed as impassable … travel on the road segment is physically impossible due to deep snow and widespread snowdrifts,” the Dakota Transportation Administration said Thursday. South on its website.
The National Weather Service (NWS) warned of observing impressive temperature drops “in an hour or less”. Wyoming law enforcement released live footage of the blizzard, taken Wednesday from inside the car by one of their officers. Outside, it is impossible to see anything: “Zero visibility”, they explain.
More than 5,500 flights were canceled Thursday and 24,000 delayed, according to flight tracking site FlightAware. Chicago and Denver airports were particularly hard hit. According to the authorities, the snow and wind will cause blizzards in some places, making any movement “dangerous or even sometimes impossible”. Canada also braced for “unseasonably low temperatures,” heavy snowfall and possible freezing rain in some areas. Authorities have urged residents of Quebec, for example, to “make emergency plans and carry emergency kits containing drinking water, food, medicine, a first aid kit and a torch. poached”. The country’s main airport, in Toronto, saw more flight delays and cancellations.
Frostbite and hypothermia
The icy front in the United States should strengthen by Friday and continue through the Christmas weekend. Its power prompted the NWS agency in Buffalo, New York, to call it a “once-in-a-generation storm.” The Midwest and Great Lakes region will be especially hard hit this weekend with snowstorms. Temperatures felt in the Great Plains region are expected to reach as low as -55°C.
“A cold of this magnitude can cause frostbite on exposed skin within minutes, as well as hypothermia and death if exposure is prolonged,” the NWS warned. Wind gusts can also reach 80 km/h, causing possible downed trees and power outages. The cold has prompted some people to take up the “boiling water challenge”, or the challenge of boiling water: they post videos where they throw very hot water into the air to watch it crystallize instantly.
The private meteorological site AccuWeather warned of the possible formation of a “cyclonic bomb”, formed by the meeting of polar air and a mass of warmer air, causing a very rapid drop in pressure. But starting Thursday, millions of Americans are expected at airports across the country, with the holiday season expected to be “busier” this year than in 2021, with a return “to pre-pandemic levels,” according to the Transportation Security Agency (TSA).
The roads also promise to be busy, with 102 million Americans heading to their holiday destinations, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). In total, about 112 million people will have to travel at least 80 km between December 23 and January 2, according to this organization, the third highest level since it began this count in 2000.