In what the National Weather Service (NWS) is calling a “once in a generation type event,” a winter storm system blanketing the continental United States has already forced the cancellation of over 1,000 flights and threatens thousands more as the Christmas weekend approaches.
In 37 states, in an area that stretches down to the Texas-Mexico border, over 90 million people have been warned with winter weather alerts and over 87 million people have been given wind chill alerts. According to FlightAware, thousands of flights will be canceled.
The storm is expected to become a “bomb cyclone” as Thursday evening turns into Friday morning. The term “bomb cyclone” is derived from the meteorological term “bombogenesis” or “explosive cyclogenesis,” which occurs when the central pressure of a storm system plunges at least 24 millibars within 24 hours.
“Powerful winter storm to produce widespread disruptive and potentially crippling impacts across the central and eastern United States,” the NWS warned. “Record-breaking cold and life-threatening wind chills over the Great Plains to overspread the eastern half of the Nation by Friday.”
“Temperatures across the central High Plains have already plummeted 50 degrees F in just a few hours,” NWS added, explaining that wind gusts would produce “wind chills as low as minus 40 degrees across a large swath of the Intermountain West and northern/central Plains, with more localized areas of minus 50 to minus 70 possible through the end of the week. … widespread Wind Chill Warnings, Watches, and Advisories span across over 30 states from Washington to Florida.”
Parts of North and South Dakota, Montana, Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana, and Michigan have issued blizzard warnings.
In southern cities such as Nashville and Atlanta, the wind chill may plunge to minus 11 degrees on Saturday. Birmingham, Alabama, is expected to drop to minus five degrees.
United, American, Delta, Southwest, and Jet Blue have issued travel waivers, CNN reported.
Georgia GOP Governor Brian Kemp issued a state of emergency order on Wednesday. “Due to the possibility of black ice accumulating on roadways and low temperatures, this projected winter weather poses a danger to the people of Georgia, and due to the low temperatures, the efficient transportation and supply of heating fuel is essential to maintain public safety,” he said.
A winter system is also targeting Great Britain with Exacta Weather forecaster James Madden warning of dangerous conditions. “Temperatures will drop in the run-up to Christmas and this could bring the risk of snow to parts of the country, some of which may fall to lower levels. … We could now be looking at a lengthy cold period setting in for a number of weeks and the potential for some of the coldest and snowiest weather since December 2010,” he said.