Temperatures drop as fierce winter storm hits US, snarling travel and prompting emergency declarations



CNN

A major winter storm battering much of the central and eastern US is bringing record-breaking temperatures and severe snow conditions that are resulting in flight cancellations, highway closures and multiple state of emergency declarations.

The storm is touching nearly every state, with more than 100 million people across the U.S. under winter weather and wind chill advisories, which the National Weather Service is calling a “once-in-a-generation event.”

As an arctic front shifts eastward, record-breaking temperature drops are being seen.

Denver saw temperatures drop 24 degrees in just seven minutes Wednesday afternoon. A temperature drop of 37 degrees in an hour at Denver International Airport is tentatively the largest ever recorded at that location, according to the National Weather Service in Boulder.

And Cheyenne, Wyoming, saw a 30-degree temperature drop in just 10 minutes and a record 43-degree temperature drop in an hour.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency Wednesday, saying, “Communities across the state are going to see temperatures not experienced in a decade or more.”

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear also declared states of emergency Wednesday, and Maryland activated emergency response operations ahead of the winter storm.

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More than 1,700 flights have been canceled across the US, according to flight-tracking website FlightAware, disrupting air travel amid the busy holiday season.

And road conditions were no better in many areas. Thursday is expected to be the toughest day for travel as the storm hits the Midwest with heavy snow and strong winds.

Near-zero road visibility led to the closure of several highways between Colorado and Wyoming Wednesday, and the Wyoming Highway Patrol said it responded to nearly 800 calls for service over a 12-hour period, telling motorists to stay off the roads.

In South Dakota, more than 100 vehicles were stranded on snow-covered roads in low-visibility conditions Wednesday night, the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office said.

Even Florida won’t be spared with residents of the Sunshine State seeing sudden temperature drops on Friday. Major cities in the South – including Nashville, Memphis, Birmingham, Alabama and Jackson, Mississippi – are expected to see snow on Thursday.

The storm is expected to strengthen into a “bomb cyclone” Thursday afternoon into Friday, reaching the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane as it moves toward the Great Lakes.

Cars move along Burlington Street as snow falls during a blizzard warning Wednesday in Iowa City, Iowa.

  • This stormy pattern touches almost any situation. There is currently a winter, cold wind, frost, coastal, or wind advisory for 44 of the lower forty-eight states.
  • The most prevalent weather hazard over the next few days will be dangerously cold. Wind chill warnings are in effect for more than 25 states that stretch continuously from the Texas Gulf Coast to the US-Canada border. Wind chills Wednesday night could drop to minus 70 degrees in parts of Wyoming, a low rarely seen in the US.
  • Denver warns of ‘life-threatening’ cold The city dropped from a high of 42 degrees to a chilly 32 degrees at 3:53 p.m. on Wednesday with a temperature of -9 and a wind chill of -30 at 8:30 p.m. – temperature drop of 60 degrees compared to wind chill.
  • An incredible 60 million Americans, or nearly 20% of the US population, will experience a below zero temperature with this arctic blast. This includes cities such as Denver, Kansas City, St. Louis, Minneapolis and Chicago.
  • Western Minnesota faces dangerous blizzard conditions and potentially deadly winds Thursday and Friday.
  • Snow will begin in Chicago around noon Thursday and last through Friday morning. Several inches of snow, combined with wind gusts of 50-60 mph could lead to Chicago’s first blizzard warning in more than four years.
  • The arctic front will push south into the Gulf of Mexico and sweep up the East Coast by late Friday, bringing cold to the Deep South. Houston will spend nearly two days below freezing from Thursday afternoon through Saturday afternoon. The normal high this time of year in Houston is 64 degrees. Atlanta’s forecast high for Saturday is 25, which would be the coldest on record for a Christmas Eve.

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