US flights cancelled in 2 days as winter storm disrupts holiday travel

New York: A “once-in-a-generation” winter storm with temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit (Celcius) caused Christmas travel chaos in the United States, with thousands of flights cancelled and major highways closed.

Heavy snow and howling winds upended holiday plans at one of the busiest times of the year, as a huge cold front swept down from the Arctic and took freezing hold of the middle of the country.

At least five US states — Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, Georgia and North Carolina — have already implemented emergency plans and others are likely to follow, with the worst of the Arctic blast yet to come.

“This is not like a snow day when you were a kid,” President Joe Biden told reporters at a White House briefing on the weather and transport turmoil.

“This is serious stuff,” he added, urging people to heed warnings from local authorities.

Blinding whiteouts and hazardous road conditions were already being seen in parts of the country slammed by a dangerous cold front.

AccuWeather forecasters have said the storm could rapidly strengthen into what is known as a “bomb cyclone” through a process known as “bombogenesis,” when the barometric pressure drops and a cold air mass collides with a warm air mass.

National Weather Service (NWS) forecaster Michael Charnick tweeted a video showing drivers struggling along a highway between Colorado and Wyoming, where the temperature with wind chills plummeted to -40 degrees Fahrenheit (-40C).

The NWS released key safety messages on its Twitter account, warning snow squalls — bursts of moderate to heavy snow lasting an hour or two — had already happened or were expected from the Central Plains to the mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

Last year’s holiday period was marred by an outbreak of COVID-19 among staff that forced airlines to cancel thousands of flights.

US airlines said earlier this week they were waiving change fees and fare differences for passengers in a range of affected areas.

 

 

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