Down to -55°C: in the United States, a “cyclonic bomb” risks disrupting the holidays

A polar cold hits the United States, as here in New York, February 18, 2021 – Angela Weiss © 2019 AFP

Much of the country will be affected by a powerful winter storm, a phenomenon that occurs “only once in a generation”, according to meteorologists. The mercury will drop locally to -55°C, making travel “very dangerous” by car or plane.

A powerful winter storm is expected to descend on much of the United States this weekend, threatening to create chaos just as tens of millions of Americans plan to travel for the holiday season.

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), the American weather service, the storm was expected to start forming on Wednesday night, strengthen until Friday and last through the Christmas weekend, bringing with it extremely low temperatures. , snowfall and strong winds over much of the north and east of the country.

It’s “a once-in-a-generation storm,” its local agency in Buffalo, New York, warned on Twitter.

Down to -55°C locally

The Midwest and the Great Lakes region will be particularly affected this weekend, with blizzards. The mercury is expected to drop very sharply in just a few hours, and reach a felt temperature of up to -55°C in the Great Plains region.

“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.

In the city of Denver, where temperatures are expected to hit a 30-year low, authorities have transformed a huge indoor hall, the Denver Coliseum, into a refuge for those in need of shelter and warmth. .

“Very dangerous” conditions for traveling

The gusts can also blow up to 80 km / h, causing possible falling trees and power cuts.

The private meteorological site AccuWeather warns 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.

These conditions will be “very dangerous” for travel, whether by road or by air, the NWS warned.

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). No less than 47,500 flights were planned in the United States alone for the day of Thursday, according to the American aviation authority (FAA).

United Airlines has “encouraged” its customers to check the status of their flight, and even to change it “free of charge” if possible. The storm will “clearly cause disruption”, including delays, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a television interview.

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 kilometers between December 23 and January 2, according to this organization, the third highest level since it began this count in 2000.

Alert in 26 States

Cold watches and alerts have been issued in portions of at least 26 states, according to the NWS, and stretch from the border with Canada to the Gulf Coast of Texas.

The snow is not the most worrying thing about this storm, but rather the cold and the winds. The heaviest snowfall is expected in the Great Lakes region between Wednesday evening and Friday, with just over 30 centimeters expected.

In February 2021, an icy cold had fallen on Texas in particularcausing a surge in energy consumption followed by massive power cuts lasting several days.

The meteorological services wanted to be reassuring this time in this state, the temperatures should be lower there and for less time than during this episode.

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Down to -55°C: in the United States, a “cyclonic bomb” risks disrupting the holidays