DETROIT, Dec 22 (Reuters) – A massive winter storm system swept across much of the United States on Thursday, threatening to disrupt the travel plans of millions of Americans ahead of what could turn out to be one of the coldest days of the year. Christmas recorded. in many cities.
Beginning over the holiday weekend, the system is expected to bring blizzard conditions to the Great Lakes region, up to 2 inches of rain followed by a quick freeze on the East Coast, 60 mph (100 km) wind gusts, and cold tough. as far south as the Mexican border.
As the storm moves over the Great Lakes, a weather phenomenon known as a bomb cyclone is expected to develop due to the “immediate deepening of this low pressure system,” the National Weather Service said. In its wake, the cyclone could bring snowfall of half an inch per hour and winds of more than 50 mph (80 km/h) to the upper Midwest and Inland Northeast, the weather service said.
“This will lead to hazardous, sometimes impossible, ground and air travel leading into the holiday weekend,” the agency said on its website. Tree damage and power outages also seemed likely, he said.
More than half of the lower 48 states, from Washington state to Florida, are under winter weather warnings, including wind chill advisories affecting about 135 million people, said Ashton Robinson Cook, a meteorologist at the Prediction Center. Weather service weather.
Traveling conditions, already poor in the Great Plains region, will gradually worsen in the Midwest and Great Lakes area as the cold front moves east and brings more than a foot of snow with it in some parts, he said.
Snow flurries — a brief burst of moderate to heavy snow and strong winds — are expected from Illinois to Indiana and could create whiteout conditions.
“I think when that happens, it’s going to have an impact on travel in areas to get snow and also historic winds,” Robinson Cook said.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates that 112.7 million people plan to travel 50 miles (80 km) or more from home between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2, an increase of 3.6 million people over last year and approaching the figures of pandemic. .
Nearly 2,000 US flights scheduled for Thursday and Friday have been canceled, including more than 700 departures and arrivals at the two major airports in Chicago, according to flight tracking service FlightAware. Hundreds of flights have been canceled in Denver.
Many US airlines have waived change fees and fare differences for passengers.
The cold air mass that had already enveloped the northern states was pushing south through central Oklahoma and northwest Texas, where the mercury is expected to drop to around 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-7 Celsius) on Thursday. Combined with wind gusts up to 60 mph (100 km/h), wind chills could drop as low as minus 40 F (minus 40 C).
Temperatures in parts of the southern and southeastern Plains could remain below freezing — 30-plus degrees below normal — for many days, the weather service predicted.
Greg Carbin, chief of forecasting operations at the Weather Prediction Center, said freezing or subzero temperatures are expected to span Florida from Pensacola through Orlando to Daytona Beach. Temperatures may register around 25 degrees below normal.
“That’s too cold for Florida,” he said.
Motorists in the Ohio and Tennessee valleys were warned that wet roads could freeze immediately due to a rapid drop in temperatures.
The weather service also warned of freezing rain in parts of northwest Oregon and Washington, where the storm began, late Thursday.
Georgia on Wednesday joined North Carolina and Kentucky in declaring a state of emergency. Temperatures in northern Georgia were forecast to reach 10F (minus 12 C) with wind chills below zero.
“We’re expecting weather that we haven’t seen in a decade or more,” Georgia Governor Brian Kemp said at a news conference.
U.S. energy and natural gas prices in the Midwest and West Coast rose to multi-year highs on Thursday.
Gas production was on track to fall by about 4.7 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) over the past three days to a preliminary low of 94.3 billion cubic feet per day on Thursday due to frozen wells in Texas , Oklahoma, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and elsewhere.
That would be the biggest daily drop in output since the February 2021 freeze, when a winter storm disrupted gas supplies from Texas and forced Texas’ electric grid operator to impose blackouts.
One billion cubic feet is enough gas to power about 5 million American homes for one day.
Reporting by Tyler Clifford in Detroit, Additional reporting by Rich McKay and Scott DiSavino; editing by Jonathan Oatis
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