Blast of Frigid Weather Set to Snarl Holiday Travel

Some areas will see blizzard conditions on the first day of winter
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 20, 2022 6:13 PM CST
Blast of Frigid Weather Set to Snarl Holiday Travel
A person uses a four-wheeler to plow snow northeast of Bellingham, Wash., on Tuesday morning, Dec. 20, 2022.   (AP Photo/Lisa Baumann)

A large swath of the US braced for a dangerous mix of sub-zero temperatures, howling winds, and blizzard conditions scheduled to arrive Wednesday and disrupt plans for millions of holiday travelers. The blast of frigid weather landing on the first day of winter and lingering through Christmas will initially hammer the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies, then grip the Plains in a deep-freeze and blanket the Midwest with heavy snowfall, forecasters say. By Friday, the arctic front is forecast to push south and potentially leave temperatures in parts of Florida in the low 20s, the AP reports. Authorities across the country are worried about the potential for power outages and warned people to take precautions to protect the elderly, the homeless, and livestock—and, if possible, to postpone travel.

The northernmost regions of the US could see wind chills approaching 70 degrees below zero—cold enough to leave exposed skin frostbitten in a matter of minutes. Even warm-weather states are preparing for the worst. Texas officials are hoping to avoid a repeat of the February 2021 storm that left millions without power, some for several days. Temperatures are expected to dip to near freezing as far south as central Florida by the weekend. The drop in temperatures will be precipitous. In Denver, the high on Wednesday will be around 50 degrees; by Thursday, it is forecast to plummet to around zero. The heaviest snow is expected in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, according to the National Weather Service, and frigid wind will be fierce across the country's midsection.

"I would not be surprised if there are lots of delays due to wind and also a lot of delays due to the snow," said Bob Oravec, lead forecaster for the National Weather Service in College Park, Maryland. Parts of Canada were already experiencing the effects by Tuesday, when all flights at the airport in Vancouver were temporarily halted because of wind and snow. And in Seattle, a combination of snow, rain, and low visibility caused nearly 200 flight cancellations at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Several inches of snow are expected from Chicago through the Great Lakes region by Friday.

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Nearly 113 million Americans are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday season, up 4% from last year but still short of the record 119 million in 2019, according to AAA. Most were planning to travel by car; around 6% were planning to Snow is also expected in the lower Midwest. With the storm approaching, Delta, American, United, and Southwest airlines said they were waiving change fees for people traveling through affected airports. (More winter weather stories.)

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