NEW DELHI: A dangerously frigid Arctic air mass gripped a large swath of the United States on Thursday ahead of what could be one of the coldest christmas Saved days, as a threat winter storm threatened to disrupt the travel plans of millions of Americans.
Ahead of the holiday weekend, the impending storm was expected to bring blizzard conditions to the Great Lakes region, up to 2 inches (5 cm) of rain followed by flash freezes on the East Coast, gusty winds 60 miles per hour (100 km/h) and biting cold to the Mexican border.
As the storm took shape over the Great Lakes on Thursday, a weather phenomenon known as the bomb cyclone is expected to develop from a “rapidly deepening low pressure” system, the National Weather Service (NWS) said.
What is a “bomb cyclone”?
A bomb cyclone, also known as an explosive cyclogenesis, is a weather phenomenon that occurs when a low-pressure system experiences a rapid and drastic drop in atmospheric pressure. This rapid pressure drop is accompanied by high winds and can lead to severe weather events including heavy snowfall, high winds and thunderstorms.
Bomb cyclones are usually associated with the winter months, but they can also occur during other seasons. They are more common in mid-latitudes, such as the eastern United States, Europe, and Asia.
Bomb cyclones form when a low-pressure system moves over a region of very cold air. As cold air moves over the system, it causes a rapid drop in air pressure. This rapid pressure drop can result in strong winds as air rushes in to fill the low pressure area. Bomb cyclones can also bring heavy precipitation, such as snow or rain, depending on the air temperature in the area.
Bomb cyclones can be very dangerous as they can bring high winds and heavy snowfall which can make travel difficult and disrupt daily activities. They can also lead to power outages and damage to infrastructure.
It is important that people are prepared for bomb cyclones and follow any warnings or advisories issued by weather agencies. This may include staying indoors, avoiding travel, and keeping an emergency kit handy.
In Fort Worth, Texas, the NWS told residents the cold snap is not expected to be as devastating as February of last year, when freezing temperatures knocked out power to millions across the Lone Star State and caused dozens of deaths.
The coldest Christmas ever recorded?
Combined with arctic cold, wind chill factors as low as 40 below zero Fahrenheit (minus 40 degrees Celsius) have been predicted across the High Plains, northern Rockies and Great Basin, the NWS reported. Exposure to such conditions without proper protection can cause frostbite within minutes.
More than half of the lower 48 states, from Washington to Florida, had winter weather warnings, including wind chill advisories affecting about 135 million people, a Weather Services meteorologist said.
Parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Plains could experience the coldest Christmas weather on record, according to the weather service.
The mercury was expected to drop to 15 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 9 Celsius) in Philadelphia on Sunday, near a previous low from 1943, while Sioux City, Iowa, could end up at minus 14F (minus 26C), surpassing a 1980s record . .
The freezing air mass was pushing south through central Oklahoma and northwest Texas, where the mercury was expected to dip to around 10F (minus 7C) on Thursday. Temperatures in the southern plains and southeast could stay below zero – but still more than 30 degrees colder than normal – for several days, the NWS predicted.
Authorities were concerned about the potential for power outages and warned people to take precautions to protect the elderly and homeless and livestock – and, if possible, to postpone travel.
Vacation travel plans in jeopardy
The American Automobile Association estimated that more than 112 million people would travel 50 miles or more from home between Friday and January 2, the vast majority – 102 million – by car. Authorities advised caution given the inclement weather for the coming days.
The Federal Aviation Administration has warned that high winds and heavy snow could delay flights at major air travel hubs in Minneapolis-St. Paul and Denver.
More than 3,000 US flights scheduled for Thursday and Friday have been canceled, including nearly 1,000 departures and arrivals at two major Chicago airports, according to a flight tracking service.
(With agency contributions)

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