More than 3,400 flights within, into or out of the US were cancelled on Friday. AFP / Reuters
With a column of bitter cold that stretched from Texas to Montana starting to march eastward, more than 240 million people in the United States were under some sort of winter weather advisory on Friday, the National Weather Service said.
Hard-freeze warnings were posted in parts of the Southern states of Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and Georgia.
A woman crosses a street in the Mile End as the snow comes down. AFP
Numbing cold intensified by high winds even extended to the US-Mexico border, with wind chill temperatures reaching the single digits in the border city of El Paso, Texas. Temperatures dipped into the teens in Fahrenheit throughout Texas' south-central Hill Country on Friday morning.
The UAE’s prestigious airline Emirates has announced that due to severe weather conditions in Chicago, the following Emirates flights to and from Chicago have been cancelled.
EK235 and EK236 / 22nd December. EK235 and EK 236 / 23rd December.
Customers connecting to Chicago will not be accepted for travel at their point of origin.
The airline also said its flights to Pakistani city of Sialkot stand cancelled due to foul weather conditions:
EK619 / 21st Dec SKT‑DXB EK620 / 22nd Dec DXB‑SKT EK621 / 22nd Dec SKT‑DXB EK618 / 23rd Dec DXB‑SKT EK619 / 23rd Dec SKT‑DXB.
The airline said, “Affected customers who have booked with travel agents should contact them for alternative travel arrangements or a refund. Customers who have booked directly with Emirates may contact their local office for rebooking options, or visit emirates.com/refund to request a refund.
We regret the inconvenience caused to our customers.”
Weather forecasters said the blizzard over the Midwest had formed into a "bomb cyclone" over Lake Erie on Friday and was moving east and expected to drop blinding snow from the northern Plains and Great Lakes region to the upper Mississippi Valley and western New York state.
The weather service map of existing or impending wintry hazards "depicts one of the greatest extents of winter weather warnings and advisories ever," the agency said.
The Midwest's "bomb cyclone" — a phenomenon that occurs when the air pressure drops drastically within a 24-hour period and speeds up a storm's intensity — could drop upwards of 35 inches of snow in Buffalo, New York; 13 inches in Kalamazoo, Michigan; and 17 inches in Erie, Pennsylvania, weather service meteorologist Ashton Robinson Cook said.
Nick Evers, of St. Louis, warms himself on steam coming from a manhole cover near Kiener Plaza in St. Louis. AP
The lowest temperature in the United States on Friday morning was recorded in Havre, Montana, where the thermometer read minus 38˚C, Cook said. But the freeze in the American South could prove to be an even bigger public safety threat, as those regions are less accustomed to the cold and snow.
"Bundle up and stay indoors if you can, and check on your neighbors," Cook said.
FLIGHTS CANCELLED, PACKAGES STUCK
Extreme weather across the country has disrupted households and holiday plans just days before Christmas. More than 1.25 million homes and businesses were without power across the southern and eastern United States on Friday morning, led by North Carolina, where more than 150,000 customers were without power, according to tracking site Poweroutage.us.
A man uses a snow blower to clear a sidewalk during a winter storm in Chicago. AFP
Severe winds, ice and snow have also upended commercial air traffic during one of the busiest travel periods of the year.
Nearly 3,500 flights within, into or out of the United States were cancelled on Friday, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware. That included more than 400 flights into or out of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, as the Pacific Northwest woke up to ice and freezing rain caused by a separate storm system on Friday morning.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) had estimated that 112.7 million people planned to travel 80km or more from home between Friday and Jan.2, up 3.6 million travelers over last year and closing in on pre-pandemic numbers.
But that number was likely to be diminished by the treacherous weather complicating air and road travel going into the weekend.
Rows of headstones at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery are blanketed by drifting snow. AP
"If there's any good news, it's that the storm has moved quickly over some areas," US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told MSNBC on Friday. Buttigieg said many airports, such as Denver, "will be able to get back on their feet quickly" after a wave of delays and cancellations, with other hubs like Chicago possibly recovering later on Friday.
Forecasters predict some relief over the next day from the deep freeze in the northern Rockies and High Plains, where the Arctic blast first materialised on Thursday. Temperatures in regions could rebound by 40 to 60 degrees over the weekend as the cold air mass creeps east.
Last-minute holiday gift purchases may also have slim chances of reaching their destination by Christmas. FedEx Corp said on Friday customers can expect potential delays for some package deliveries across the United States, as the company experienced substantial disruptions at its Memphis, Tennessee, and Indianapolis hubs on Thursday night due to severe winter weather.
More than 50 flights were also cancelled on Sunday due to freezing fog. Train and bus services in London were also severely affected after the dump of around four inches of snow overnight. Some schools were also shut.
Travellers across much of the eastern US were bracing for one of the most treacherous Christmas weekends in decades, with forecasters warning of a "bomb cyclone” that will pack heavy snow and wind while sending temperatures plummeting 50˚C in a matter of hours.
"Much of the eastern United States will remain in a deep freeze through Monday before a moderating trend sets in on Tuesday," the National Weather Service said on Monday. Over 1,000 US flights had already been cancelled just hours into Monday..."
The well wishers attended a banquet Iftar held by Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed on this occasion.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin announced, on Friday, that 457 people had been arrested, and that 441 police and gendarmerie officers were injured on Thursday, in France, during the ninth day of protests against pension reform.
The pilot and a 14-year-old passenger were seriously injured and remain in hospital in a serious condition.