Temperatures Fall Far and Fast as Winter Storm Threatens US
MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Temperatures plunged far and fast Thursday as a winter storm began forming ahead of Christmas weekend, promising heavy snow, ice, flooding and powerful winds across a broad swath of the country and complicating holiday travel.
The National Weather Service reported that temperatures across the central High Plains plummeted 50 degrees Fahrenheit in just a few hours. In much of the country, the Christmas weekend could be the coldest in decades.
“This is not like a snow day when you were a kid,” President Joe Biden warned Thursday in the Oval Office after a briefing from federal officials. “This is serious stuff.”
The frigid air will move through the central United States to the east, with windchill advisories affecting about 135 million people over the coming days, weather service meteorologist Ashton Robinson Cook said Thursday.
Forecasters are expecting a bomb cyclone — when atmospheric pressure drops very quickly in a strong storm — to develop near the Great Lakes, which will increase winds and create blizzard conditions, Cook said.
In Texas, temperatures were expected to quickly plummet Thursday, but state leaders promised there wouldn’t be a repeat of the February 2021 storm that overwhelmed the state’s power grid and was blamed for hundreds of deaths.
Gov. Greg Abbott, in a news conference Wednesday, was confident the state could handle the increased demand for energy as the temperatures dropped.
“I think trust will be earned over the next few days as people see that we have ultra-cold temperatures and the grid is going to be able to perform with ease,” he said.
The cold weather extended to El Paso and across the border into Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, where migrants have been camping outside or filling shelters as they await a decision on whether the U.S. will lift restrictions that have prevented many from seeking asylum.
Elsewhere in the U.S., authorities worried about the potential for power failures and warned people to take precautions to protect older and homeless people and livestock — and, if possible, to postpone travel.
“This event could be life-threatening if you are stranded with wind chills in the 30 below to 45 below zero range,” according to an online post by the National Weather Service in Minnesota, where transportation and patrol officials reported dozens of crashes and vehicles off the road.
More than 1,400 flights had been canceled Thursday morning within, in or out of the U.S., according to the tracking site FlightAware. That includes nearly one-quarter of the U.S. flights scheduled to land at Chicago O’Hare on Thursday and about half of the U.S. flights bound for Chicago Midway.
As the winter storm approached, some shelters in the Detroit area already were at capacity. The Detroit News reported that the 140 beds at COTS, a family-only shelter in Detroit, were full. The facility is hoping to make room for others, though, spokesperson Aisha Morrell-Ferguson told the newspaper Wednesday.
“We are not sending anyone back into this cold,” Morrell-Ferguson said. “It does not matter if we have to pull out air mattresses. We are doing everything we can, looking at alternative spaces to support the needs that may arise.”
Air, bus and train travelers braced for cancellations and delays.
In Montana, several ski areas announced closures Wednesday and Thursday because of the extreme cold and sustained winds. Others scaled back offerings. Schools were also closed due to the cold.
In famously snowy Buffalo, New York, forecasters predicted a “once-in-a-generation storm” because of heavy lake-effect snow, wind gusts as high as 65 mph (105 kph), whiteouts and the potential for extensive power outages. The NHL postponed the Buffalo Sabres’ home game against the Tampa Bay Lightning and rescheduled it for March 4.
In Charleston, South Carolina, a coastal flood warning went into effect early Thursday. The area, a popular tourist destination for its mild winters, is bracing for strong winds and freezing temperatures.
The wintry weather extended into Canada, causing delays and cancellations earlier in the week at Vancouver International Airport. A major winter storm was expected Friday into Saturday in Toronto, where wind gusts as high as 60 mph (100 kph) were predicted to cause blowing snow and limited visibility, Environment Canada said.
Bleed reported from Little Rock, Arkansas. Associated Press journalist Jackie Quinn in Washington contributed to this report.
In The News
ROLLING FORK, Miss. (AP) — Powerful tornadoes tore through the Deep South on Friday night, killing at least 23 people... Read More
ROLLING FORK, Miss. (AP) — Powerful tornadoes tore through the Deep South on Friday night, killing at least 23 people in Mississippi, obliterating dozens of buildings and leaving an especially devastating mark in a rural town whose mayor declared, “My city is gone.” The Mississippi Emergency... Read More
WASHINGTON (AP) — A 5,000-mile seaweed belt lurking in the Atlantic Ocean is expected in the next few months to... Read More
WASHINGTON (AP) — A 5,000-mile seaweed belt lurking in the Atlantic Ocean is expected in the next few months to wash onto beaches in the Caribbean Sea, South Florida, and the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. The Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt — as the biomass stretching from... Read More
WASHINGTON (AP) — After three nasty years, the La Nina weather phenomenon that increases Atlantic hurricane activity and worsens western drought is... Read More
WASHINGTON (AP) — After three nasty years, the La Nina weather phenomenon that increases Atlantic hurricane activity and worsens western drought is gone, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday. That’s usually good news for the United States and other parts of the world, including drought-stricken northeast Africa, scientists... Read More
A storm system marched eastward Friday, threatening heavy snow in the Midwest and Northeast after spawning likely tornadoes in Texas... Read More
A storm system marched eastward Friday, threatening heavy snow in the Midwest and Northeast after spawning likely tornadoes in Texas and Louisiana that damaged homes, a university campus and left thousands without power. The storms will threaten the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys with tornadoes as they... Read More
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Emergency crews in California scrambled Wednesday to shuttle food and medicine to mountain communities stranded by back-to-back winter... Read More
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Emergency crews in California scrambled Wednesday to shuttle food and medicine to mountain communities stranded by back-to-back winter storms that have dumped so much snow some residents can barely see out their windows. In San Bernardino County east of Los Angeles, around-the-clock plowing is... Read More
BOSTON (AP) — Heavy snow bookended the United States on Tuesday, with a late-season storm bringing a messy morning commute... Read More
BOSTON (AP) — Heavy snow bookended the United States on Tuesday, with a late-season storm bringing a messy morning commute to the Northeast and California residents digging out, or in some cases simply stranded, after yet another storm. Schools across southern New England either closed for... Read More