Massive winter storm threatens holiday travel for millions of Americans

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DETROIT, Dec 22 (Reuters) – Millions of Americans were forced to leave the country before a massive winter storm swept through swathes of the United States on Thursday, potentially making it the coldest Christmas day on record. In many cities that threaten to upend a person’s travel plans.

Heading into the holiday weekend, the system is expected to bring blizzard conditions to the Great Lakes region, with up to 2 inches of rain, followed by rapid freezing on the East Coast and 60 miles (100 km) per hour winds. Gusts of wind and bitter cold are expected. South to the Mexican border.

As the storm moves over the Great Lakes, the “rapid deepening of this cyclone system” is expected to create a weather phenomenon known as a bomb cyclone, the National Weather Service said. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, the cyclone could bring snowfall of 0.5 inches per hour and winds of over 80 kilometers (50 miles) per hour in the upper Midwest and northeastern interior.

“This will lead to dangerous and sometimes impossible land and air travel for the holiday weekend,” the agency said on its website. Tree damage and power outages are also likely.

More than half of the 48 contiguous U.S. states from Washington to Florida have winter weather warnings, with cold wind warnings affecting about 135 million people, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency’s Weather Prediction Center. Scholar Ashton Robinson Cook said:

Travel conditions are already deteriorating in the Midwest and Great Lakes region as the cold front moves east, bringing more than a foot of snow in some areas.

Temporary squalls with moderate to heavy snow and high winds are expected from Illinois to Indiana, with possible whiteout conditions.

“If that happens, it will affect travel to areas with snow and historical winds,” said Robinson Cook.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates that 112.7 million people plan to travel more than 50 miles (80 km) from their home between December 23rd and January 2nd. That’s 3.6 million more than last year and is approaching pre-pandemic numbers.

Nearly 2,000 U.S. flights scheduled for Thursday and Friday have been canceled, including more than 700 departures and arrivals at Chicago’s two major airports, according to flight tracking service FlightAware. Hundreds of flights have been canceled.

Many US airlines waive passenger change fees and fare differences.

Frigid air masses that have already blanketed northern states are pushing south through central Oklahoma and northwest Texas, where mercury is expected to drop to about 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-7 degrees Celsius) Thursday. It has been. Combined with gusts of up to 60 mph (100 kph), wind chill can drop to minus 40 F (minus 40 C).

The Japan Meteorological Agency forecasts temperatures more than 30 degrees below normal in parts of the southern and southeastern plains could remain below freezing for several days.

Greg Carbin, head of forecast operations for the Weather Prediction Center, said freezing or freezing temperatures are expected to bisect Florida from Pensacola to Orlando to Daytona Beach. Temperatures can be about 25 degrees cooler than normal.

“It’s pretty cold for Florida,” he said.

Drivers in canyons in Ohio and Tennessee were warned that the sudden drop in temperatures could cause wet roads to freeze instantly.

The Bureau of Meteorology also warned of freezing rain in parts of northwestern Oregon and Washington, where storms struck late Thursday.

Georgia followed North Carolina and Kentucky on Wednesday in declaring a state of emergency. Temperatures in North Georgia were predicted to reach 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 12 degrees) with sub-zero wind chill.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp said at a news conference: “We expect weather like we haven’t seen in over a decade.

Power and natural gas prices in the US Midwest and West Coast surged to multi-year highs on Thursday.

Gas production fell about 4.7 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) over the past three days due to frozen wells in Texas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, hitting a seven-month low on Thursday. It dropped to a certain 94.3 bcfd.

This is the largest daily output since a frozen winter storm in February 2021 cut off gas supplies from Texas, forcing the Texas grid operator to shut down phased outages. will decline.

One billion cubic feet of gas is enough gas to supply approximately five million US homes for one day.

Reporting by Tyler Clifford, Detroit, with additional reporting by Rich McKay and Scott DiSavino.Editing by Jonathan Ortiz

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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