CHICAGO: More than 2,200 flights were canceled across the United States Thursday afternoon as a huge winter storm appointed Elliot vacation travel plans turned upside down with a triple threat of heavy snow, howling winds and freezing cold.
At least five US states – Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, Georgia and North Carolina – already have contingency plans in place and more are likely to follow, with the worst of the Arctic explosion yet to come. come.
“It’s not like a snowy day when you were a kid,” President Joe Biden told reporters during a White House briefing on weather and transportation disruptions.
“This is something serious,” he added, urging people to heed warnings from local authorities.
Blinding whiteouts and treacherous road conditions were already being seen in parts of the country hit by a dangerous cold front.
Beyond the 2,200 cancellations as of 2200 GMT, more than 6,900 other flights within, to or from the United States have been delayed, according to flight tracker FlightAware.
The majority of canceled US flights so far have been to Chicago O’Hare or Denver, two international hubs, the data shows.
AccuWeather forecasters said the storm could quickly develop into what is known as a “bomb cyclone” through a process called “bombogenesis”, when barometric pressure drops and an air mass cold collides with a warm air mass.
National Weather Service (NWS) forecaster Michael Charnick tweeted a video showing struggling drivers along a highway between Colorado and Wyoming, where the temperature with wind chills dropped to -40 degrees Fahrenheit (-40C).
The NWS posted key safety messages on its Twitter account, warning that snow squalls – moderate to heavy snow bursts lasting an hour or two – had already occurred or were expected from the Central Plains in the middle of the Atlantic and in the northeast.
“People exposed to extreme cold are susceptible to frostbite within minutes,” the agency warned.
“The areas most prone to frostbite are exposed skin and the extremities, such as the hands and feet. Hypothermia is another threat during extreme cold.”
The conditions were cold enough that people posted videos of themselves doing the “boiling water challenge”, where boiling water is thrown through the air and instantly freezes.
“We created our own cloud @ -17°F (-27°C) at #Missoula International Airport,” tweeted NWS Missoula, in the western state of Montana.
In the Midwest, blizzard conditions stranded 100 motorists in Rapid City and Wall in South Dakota, the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office tweeted.
“NO TRAVEL advised,” the sheriff’s office added.
In Minneapolis and Saint Paul, more than eight inches (20 centimeters) of snow accumulated over a 24-hour period, the NWS said in a Thursday morning update.
Further east in Buffalo, New York, forecasters called it a “once in a generation storm” with wind gusts over 105 kilometers per hour, wind chills too low as 10 to 20 degrees F below freezing, and power cuts.
Across the border, eastern Canada was bracing for equally windy conditions, with heavy snowfall and rapidly falling temperatures.
The country’s busiest airport in Toronto was already feeling the tightening weather chaos, with increasing delays and cancellations.
The storm comes as the Transportation Security Administration said it expects holiday travel volume to be near pre-pandemic levels, with the busiest day Thursday, three days before Christmas.
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 of them – 102 million – by car.

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