Heavy snowfall and freezing rain are expected to impact much of the nation for the next three days, according to a forecast from the National Weather Service. Powerful winds are expected in the western United States, as well as heavy rains and flash flooding in the midwest.
“A prolonged major winter storm will spread a large swath of heavy snow from the West Coast to the Northeast today through Friday, and confidence is high that this winter storm will be extremely disruptive to travel, infrastructure, livestock, and recreation in affected areas,” the National Weather Service said on social media.
The weather conditions have produced more than 2,000 flight cancellations and over 9,800 delays on Wednesday, according to data from FlightAware. Some 44% of flights were canceled at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, while 33% were canceled at Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport, and 23% at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport.
Several airlines issued flight waivers for affected airports, allowing passengers to rebook their tickets without an additional charge. Southwest Airlines, which canceled some 16,700 flights between December 21 and December 31 even as severe winter weather subsided in the days after Christmas, nixed flights on Wednesday at a rate commensurate with other major carriers. The airline is permitting customers to rebook tickets if they planned to depart from cities such as Minneapolis, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Milwaukee, Portland (Maine), Salt Lake City, and Denver.
The winter storm that struck the United States amid the holiday season caused companies like FedEx and UPS to warn of nationwide delivery delays. Amazon shuttered some locations, and the United States Postal Service closed several dozen offices. Nearly 102 million Americans planned to drive to their holiday destinations, marking an increase of two million drivers since the previous year, according to data from AAA.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation warned travelers this week that the snowstorm will produce hazardous driving conditions. “Plows will be out in force and will work diligently to keep roads open,” District 8 Operations Superintendent Lonnie Hoffman said in a statement. “However, folks should consider changing travel plans and be prepared that roadways could quickly move to no travel advised or closed as two storm fronts move across the area.”
Even as much of the nation prepares for severe weather, the eastern United States will see “significantly anomalous warm temperatures” relative to typical conditions in February. The National Weather Service forecasted highs between Wednesday and Thursday will venture into the 70s and 80s in the southeast, midwest, and mid-Atlantic regions, adding that the weather “will feel more like June than February.”
California, meanwhile, is facing strong winds that may bring snow to low-elevation portions of the state; Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California Los Angeles, said on social media that almost all of the state’s population will “be able to see snow from some vantage point later this week.” On the other hand, more than 106,000 homes and businesses in California were without power as of Wednesday, according to data from PowerOutage.us.