An enormous winter storm is battering a vast swath of the U.S. and Canada, knocking out power to more than 1 million homes and businesses, grounding thousands of flights, coating roads with ice and dashing hopes for delivery of last-minute holiday gifts.
More than 1.1 million customers in 24 states are without power, including in Texas, New York and hardest-hit North Carolina, where more than 165,000 homes and businesses are in the dark, according to PowerOutage.us. Upward of 6,600 flights out of and around the U.S. are cancelled as of 11 a.m. New York time, according to airline tracking service FlightAware.
While it’s packing plenty of snow and frigid temperatures, the storm is mostly noteworthy for its size and speed. Snow, blizzard, freezes and flood warnings and advisories stretch across the central and eastern portions of the country, the northern fringe and the Deep South. It’s speedy march across the continent, meanwhile, is causing violent temperature swings. New York City was 55F at dawn. By 10 p.m., it’s forecast to be around 10.
More than 200 million people — around 60% of the country — were under some form of winter weather warning or advisory Friday, according to the National Weather Service. Heavy snow is set to blanket the Great Lakes region and parts of northern New York and New England, with bitter cold following a front that’s now pushing into Pennsylvania and the Appalachian Mountains.
“It’s a pretty significant storm and is so widespread,” said Rich Otto, a forecaster at the U.S. Weather Prediction Center. “This is a once in a 20- to 30-year type storm.”
The storm has intensified while sweeping east to achieve the status of a “bomb cyclone” — when its central pressure rapidly plunges — and is now centred over southwestern Ontario in Canada. Canadians are dealing with their own travel woes and power outages due to the severe weather, including cancelled flights in the country’s busiest airports.
The storm has created “substantial disruptions” at FedEx Express hubs in Memphis and Indianapolis, potentially delaying holiday packages from arriving by Christmas, the shipping company said in a statement.
Amtrak cancelled some trains in the Midwest and northern New England.
In Texas, where the wind chill brought temperatures down to single digits in some areas, residents cranked up heaters so much that the state’s grid set a record for power use during winter. The cold also halted more than 1.6 million barrels a day of oil-refining capacity in the state and forced the two largest U.S. refineries — Motiva Port Arthur and Marathon Galveston Bay — to stop producing.
New York declared a statewide emergency and banned commercial traffic on the New York State Thruway from west of Rochester to the Pennsylvania border. Gov. Kathy Hochul urged people who haven’t already taken to the roads to wait until Sunday to travel. Schools are closed in Buffalo, where up to 4 feet of snow may fall, and so are public offices in New Jersey.
Weather warnings and advisories stretch from Washington state to Maine and south to the Gulf of Mexico, as an estimated 112.7 million people are set to travel at least 50 miles through Jan. 2, according to automotive group AAA.
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