fFor many Americans, there will be no Christmas vacation with the family this year. Thousands of flights were canceled Thursday and Friday as an unusually violent winter storm spread east from the United States’ Pacific Northwest.
In the metropolis of Chicago in the state of Illinois alone, more than 1,300 connections failed. In Denver (Colorado), which on Thursday experienced the lowest temperature since Christmas 1990 with minus 32 degrees, several thousand passengers camped in the airport.
Power outages and supply bottlenecks
States from Montana to New York meanwhile warned of snow storms and possible supply bottlenecks for the coming days. “In the case of large-scale storms with speeds of up to 80 kilometers per hour, there is also a risk of large-scale power failures. Combined with the cold that’s settling in, it’s a mix you really don’t want,” meteorologist Chris Warren summarized the holiday weather for The Weather Channel.
Interstate 80, one of the longest highways in the country, was partially closed on Thursday after several hundred accidents occurred on the icy road. An 84-year-old driver was fatally injured when his car skidded off the road near York, Nebraska.
In Kansas, three drivers died in ice and gusts of wind by Friday, and the authorities in Oklahoma initially reported two more deaths from the weather. In Portland, Oregon, several houses were destroyed by uprooted trees during strong gusts of wind.
With temperatures as low as minus 45 degrees, the National Weather Service issued cold warnings for more than 200 million Americans.
In some regions between the Great Plains and the east coast, a so-called bomb cyclone is threatening in addition to the arctic storm depression – with perceived temperatures of up to minus 60 degrees. In the weather phenomenon, the air pressure in a low-pressure area drops unusually quickly. “It has nothing to do with a snowy day from childhood. It’s serious,” warned US President Joe Biden.
The National Weather Service warned Friday morning of a “historic storm” that could sweep the Great Lakes region, upstate New York and parts of New England in the coming days with heavy snowfall. More than 100,000 Americans were without power in southern Georgia earlier Friday morning, according to website Poweroutage. Thousands also sat in the dark in Texas, Alabama, Tennessee and New York.
Meanwhile, various cities along the east coast set up warming rooms for the homeless. In South Dakota, where meteorologists were predicting freezing rain, Rosebud Sioux disaster manager Robert Oliver distributed firewood and gas bottles to Indigenous families. The tribe had already reported more than five members who had died in temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees in the past few days.
Meanwhile, the US Department of Homeland Security asked potential immigrants at the border between Mexico and the United States to cancel their journey north for the time being. There are no more warm emergency shelters in the region to accommodate them.