The rare intensity winter storm that swept the United States this Friday (12.23.2022), caused road and airport closures in much of the country on Christmas Eve, leaving more than 240 million people affected by weather alerts.
A large number of states registered freezing temperatures today as the great frigid storm, known as a bomb cyclone, left millions of homes without power and thousands of travelers stranded.
The phenomenon, caused by an arctic air front, will be responsible for the country experiencing its coldest Christmas since the 1980s.
About 10 people, so far, have died on the roads since the storm began in the states of Kansas, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Ohio.
In other places, like Chicago, Illinois, or Nashville, Tennessee, roads were clogged for hours as temperatures dropped, rain turned to ice and the wind blew into blizzards.
In Denver (Colorado) Thursday was the second coldest day since records were kept: the average temperature was 26 degrees below zero.
Transportation problems also affected trains and bus companies such as Greyhound, the largest of which has already warned that many routes in the Northeast or Midwest may be canceled or altered.
More than a million homes without electricity
More than 1.4 million homes or offices were without power this Friday, especially in North and South Carolina, Connecticut and Texas, according to the specialized site Poweroutage.us, while around 5,300 flights had been canceled on Friday and another 4,500 the day before.
Another 5,900 postponed, according to the Flight Aware site. The most affected airports were those of Seattle (northwest), New York, Chicago (north) and Detroit.
The National Weather Service (NWS) said conditions are very dangerous for traffic.
Millions of people were expected to hit the roads and board flights for the Christmas and New Year holidays, marking a return to pre-pandemic levels of mobility.
According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), some 112 million people planned to drive at least 80 kilometers between December 23 and January 2.
Several states declare emergency
Several states, including New York, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Georgia, and North Carolina, have declared emergencies.
“People should stay home, not venture out on the roads,” Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear told CNN.
“Blizzard conditions can develop very quickly,” he added, noting that the National Guard has been deployed to the state. Beshear confirmed the death of three people on the roads of Kentucky.
In Oklahoma, at least two people died on the route, according to the agency in charge of emergency management in this state.
Migrants trapped by the polar cold
In El Paso, Texas, desperate migrants who crossed from Mexico were trying to warm themselves in churches, schools and a civic center, Rosa Falcón, a school teacher and volunteer, told AFP.
But some chose to stay outside in temperatures of minus 9 below because they feared immigration authorities, he added.
In Chicago, Burke Patten of Night Ministry, a nonprofit organization, recounted efforts by its members to provide “coats, hats, gloves, thermal underwear, blankets and sleeping bags, as well as hand and foot gloves.” to homeless people.
Heavy snowfall occurred in the north of the country, particularly in the Great Lakes region.
But the phenomenon extends from the Canadian border in the north to the Mexican border in the south, and from the Pacific coast in the northwest to the Atlantic coast in the east, the US meteorologists said.
This low pressure system causes a strong clash between a very cold air mass coming from the Arctic and a tropical one coming from the Gulf of Mexico.
What makes the current situation extraordinary is that the atmospheric pressure plummeted very quickly, in less than 24 hours.
In New York, while the temperature was still hovering around 10°C on Friday morning, it was expected to drop to -10°C by night. In Chicago, it was 20 degrees below zero on Friday morning, and temperatures were negative all the way to the Texas coast.
Canada was also bracing for unusually low temperatures for the season.
Extreme cold, winter storm and even blizzard warnings were issued early Friday for most of Canada, according to Environment Canada.
In Alberta (western Canada) and Saskatchewan (central), temperatures ranged from -40 to -50 degrees.
jc (ap, afp, efe)