Cold and snow threaten the United States before Christmas

Dee-ann Durbin, The Associated Press

NEW YORK — Heavy snowfall, ice, flooding and even tornadoes could complicate holiday travel for Americans over the next few days.

Severe weather is predicted from the Great Plains to the Midwest and up the country’s east coast. An arctic air mass is then expected to start sweeping across the country, and the Christmas weekend could be the most frigid in decades.

The cold began to hit the Pacific Northwest on Tuesday morning. It is now expected to move north of the Rockies and then freeze the plains before depositing heavy snowfall over the Midwest. Intense cold should be felt as far as Florida on Friday.

Officials are worried about possible power outages. They asked the population to take the necessary measures to protect the most vulnerable, and if possible, to delay travel.

The mercury could drop to -57 degrees Celsius, with the wind factor, in the most northern regions of the United States. The heaviest snowfall is expected in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, according to the US National Weather Service. A frigid wind will blow over the center of the country.

The system is so large that it will affect about 190 million Americans one way or another, meteorologists said.

A winter storm led to the cancellation of some 200 flights Tuesday in Seattle.

The US Transportation Safety Administration warns that December 22 and December 30 will be the busiest days at US airports, with traffic approaching pre-pandemic levels.

Earlier this month, the American Automobile Association predicted that about 113 million people will drive at least 75 miles from home between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2, up 4% from last year. The record of 119 million was set in 2019.

A recent Morning Consult survey found that 28% of travelers were planning a day trip over the holidays, up from 14% last year. There was also an increase in the number of people planning to stay with relatives rather than staying in a hotel, which is possibly due to inflation.

The need to meet relatives and friends seemed stronger than the threat of illness. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says COVID-19 cases and deaths from the virus have been declining for the past few weeks. However, the combined onslaught of SARS-CoV-2, seasonal influenza and respiratory syncytial virus continues to plague the healthcare system.

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