Millions face ‘life-threatening’ cold ahead of Arctic Christmas blast

  • Tens of millions of Americans are under winter weather warnings ahead of the holiday weekend.
  • Subzero temperatures and high winds pose a significant risk to those outside.
  • Winter conditions are also likely to affect holiday travel plans in many parts of the country.

“Astronomical winter” conditions are headed for nearly every state in the country ahead of the holiday weekend, according to the National Weather Service.

Arctic blizzards, sub-zero temperatures and high winds starting Wednesday are forecast to affect millions of Americans from the Pacific Northwest to the Appalachian Mountains by Saturday afternoon, the government agency said in a statement.

More than 90 million people in 37 states are under weather warnings in what the National Weather Service is calling a “once-in-a-generation event,” with states as far south as Texas bracing for freezing conditions, CNN reported.

A wall of ‘dangerous’ arctic air sweeping across the US from western Canada could bring heavy snow to the Northwest and Rockies, while the Midwest faces possible blizzard conditions and ‘life-threatening’ wind chills before the storm swings east .

According to the National Weather Service, temperatures in the Great Plains could reach as low as -30 degrees Fahrenheit, while wind gusts of up to 60 mph could hit the central and north central U.S. with temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit.

The agency warned this week that such conditions can be life-threatening and lead to frostbite in as little as 10 minutes, leaving shelters across the country scrambling to prepare for the dangerous weather.

The Central Iowa Shelter & Services in Des Moines, Iowa, where temperatures are expected to dip below freezing several times this weekend, is already at capacity, an employee told Insider.

“It’s freezing out there,” Verna Williams said. “We’re not turning anyone away. Everyone needs somewhere to warm up.”

The shelter plans to continue helping the guides even as their numbers grow, Williams said, by finding chairs and tables for people to use when the beds are gone. He said there were about 260 people already at the shelter as of Wednesday afternoon.

“Just making sure they’re able to be safe and have some warmth, have somewhere for safety, have somewhere to get something to eat and drink,” he told Insider.

Staff are working overtime to cope with the extreme weather. Williams said it was an “all hands and toes” on deck situation: “We’re all out here.”

Midwest shelters are also bracing for sub-zero temperatures and working to get strays off the streets and into them, Perry Hines, head of development at the Wheeler Mission in Indianapolis, told Insider.

“During this bitter cold, our neighbors experiencing homelessness are at risk of frostbite, hypothermia or even death,” Hines said. “The danger is there and we are here to help.”

Hines said the organization’s shelters were only at 75 percent capacity as of Wednesday afternoon and had room for extra men, women and children to come in and out of the cold.

The wintry conditions are also almost certain to cause travel nightmares across the country during one of the busiest travel weekends of the year. Between icy roads, airport delays and possible power outages, travel is expected to be nearly impossible in many places, the National Weather Service warned.

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