Aviva Fried with AFP
7:23 p.m., December 23, 2022
As a historic cold wave sweeps over the United States, the climatic conditions have become “very dangerous” to move around, warned the authorities. But millions of Americans have to hit the roads and airports for the holiday season. “Please take this storm extremely seriously,” urged President Joe Biden. “I encourage everyone (…) to listen the warnings at the local level”, he added. “It’s serious”.
Many major roads closed to traffic
Several states have declared states of emergency, such as New York, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Georgia and North Carolina. Americans will shiver as far south as Texas. Roads were already covered in snow across the country and many accidents were reported by the media.
I-90, a major highway through the northern United States, was closed in the state of South Dakota, with authorities warning it would not reopen until Friday. “Several secondary roads are currently listed as ‘impassable road’… travel on the road segment is physically impossible due to deep snow and widespread snowdrifts,” the Dakota Transportation Administration said Thursday. of the South on its website.
Impressive temperature drops
The National Weather Service (NWS), national weather service, warned to have observed impressive temperature drops “in an hour or less”. Wyoming law enforcement released vivid footage of the blizzard, taken Wednesday from inside the car of one of their officers. Outside, it is impossible to see anything: “Zero visibility”, they explain.
More than 5,500 flights were canceled Thursday and 24,000 delayed, according to flight tracking site FlightAware. Chicago and Denver airports were particularly hard hit. According to the authorities, snow and winds will cause blizzards in some places, making any movement “dangerous or even sometimes impossible”.
Canada is also preparing for contingency plans
Canada, too, was bracing for “unusually low temperatures for the season”, heavy snowfall and possible freezing rain in some areas. The authorities have encouraged residents of Quebec, for example, to “prepare emergency plans and carry emergency kits containing drinking water, food, medicine, a first aid kit and a torch. poached”.
The country’s main airport, in Toronto, was racking up flight delays and cancellations.
Frostbite and hypothermia
The freezing front in the United States is expected to strengthen by Friday and continue through the Christmas weekend. Its power caused the NWS agency in Buffalo, New York, to say it was “a once-in-a-generation storm.”
The Midwest and the Great Lakes region will be particularly affected this weekend, with blizzards. The temperature felt in the Great Plains region is expected to reach up to -55°C. “A cold of this magnitude could cause frostbite on exposed skin within minutes, as well as hypothermia and death if exposure is prolonged,” warned the NWS.
Possible formation of a “cyclonic bomb”
The gusts can also blow up to 80 km / h, causing possible falling trees and power cuts. The cold has prompted some people to embark on the “boiling water challenge”, or challenge of boiling water: they publish videos in which they throw very hot water in the air to see it crystallize immediately.
The private meteorological site AccuWeather warned of the possible formation of a “cyclonic bomb”, formed by the meeting of polar air with a mass of warmer air, causing a very rapid drop in pressure. But from Thursday, millions of Americans are expected at airports across the country, with the holiday season this year expected to be “busier” than in 2021, with a return “to pre-pandemic levels”, according to the Transportation Security Agency (TSA).
Roads also promise to be busy, with 102 million Americans having to drive to where they will be spending the holidays, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). In total, about 112 million people must travel at least 80 km between December 23 and January 2, according to this organization, the third highest level since it began this count in 2000.