Charles Rex Arbogast/AP
Millions of Americans may want to rethink their holiday travel plans as bitter cold, biting winds and heavy snow are expected across the US this week, imposing treacherous conditions in the days leading up to Christmas.
A bulletin from the National Weather Service (NWS) says a “strong Arctic high pressure system” swept across Canada on Tuesday and is poised to move toward the Great Plains, Midwest and Southeast on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Bringing life-threatening blizzard conditions and cold weather systems to 17 states.
Vancouver International Airport was temporarily closed Tuesday due to heavy snow and low visibility, leaving scores of travelers stranded. As a cold weather system moves across the country this week, it could be a sign of things to come for vacationers in the United States.
At least 250 flights to and from Seattle-Tacoma Airport were canceled Tuesday due to heavy snow, according to monitoring site FlightAware. The Cascade Mountains in Washington state saw the heaviest snowfall Tuesday, but nearby lowlands in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming could see a foot of snow, the NWS said. The region could see another burst of snow and ice on Thursday.
An incoming Arctic front will cross the Northern Rockies, Great Basin and Northern Plains, bringing temperatures down to minus 30 degrees and 60 mph winds.
Snow may move into parts of Nebraska, Kansas, the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin on Wednesday. By Thursday, blizzard conditions could hit the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes regions, including Chicago, causing significant flight delays and cancellations at O’Hare International Airport, one of the nation’s largest aviation hubs. Major travel hub cities such as Denver, Salt Lake City and Minneapolis are also expected to be affected.
For the eastern US, heavy rain on Tuesday and Wednesday could lead to snow or sleet in the Appalachian states on Thursday.
By Friday, temperatures will hit season lows What is only the first week of winter? Even northern Florida cities such as Jacksonville and Tallahassee could see temperatures as low as 20 F on Christmas Eve.
Most major airlines, including United, American, Delta, JetBlue and Southwest, offer to waive change fees and fare differences for those looking to change flights.
“It allows passengers to see and revise tickets now and throughout the holiday week,” says Kathleen Bangs, a spokeswoman for tracking site FlightAware.com. You can change or buy that ticket from the bank for later use.”
His advice to all travelers this year:
“You really need to have a backup plan,” says Bangs. “From a secondary ticket on another flight that leaves late or the next morning. This means that you can go within a couple of hundred miles of your route through another city and then you can rent a car or take the train.”
Bangs says there’s a chance any flight can be canceled at any time in this weather, and it can be difficult to get hold of a representative from an airline.
More than 90% of the 113 million Americans traveling this holiday season will drive, according to AAA. And with more snow and sleet in the forecast, as well as whiteout conditions in some areas, forecasters say they should proceed with extreme caution.
“Low visibility will create even more hazardous travel conditions over snow-covered roads,” the NWS says. “Additionally, strong winds will lead to possible power outages from the Midwest to the Northeast.”
“Travellers should check the latest forecast before heading out.”
A crash left behind 180,000 without power across New England The weekend was resolved on Monday, but The Associated Press reported Efforts to bring additional utility workers into the state ahead of this week’s storm were hampered by slick roads.
Police across New England responded to hundreds of crashes and stranded vehicles, According to local media reports.
Freezing is another danger for those trying to brave the cold, the NWS says. Subzero temperatures in parts of the US this week can lead to frostbite on exposed skin within 10 minutes.
Those going outdoors should dress in layers, cover skin, and change into dry clothes early. But experts say the best prevention is staying indoors.