Deadly ‘bomb cyclone’ hits the US, millions brace for deep freeze

Pete, a 41-year-old homeless man, stands next to the donated tent near the expressway where he is living as temperatures hang in the single-digits on Dec. 22, 2022, in Chicago, Illinois. A winter weather system bringing snow, high winds and sub-zero temperatures has wreaked havoc on a large section of the county in front of the holidays. Strong winds are expected to combine with sub-zero temperatures tomorrow driving the wind chill in Chicago to around -40 degrees. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

At least five people have died in vehicle accidents and thousands of flights have been canceled as more than 200 million people, or roughly 60% of the U.S. population, are under winter storm and wind chill alerts due to an impending “bomb cyclone” which will cripple the travel plans of thousands of families this Christmas.

A powerful Arctic winter storm, a “once in a generation type event,” according to the National Weather Service, is behind the weather alerts that span states from the West Coast to the East Coast and from the Canada border to the Mexico border, and well into the Southeast.

The “historic winter storm” will produce widespread disruptions to large portions of the nation heading into the Christmas weekend, the Weather Prediction Center said early Friday, adding that over 240 million people in the country are under some form of winter weather warning or advisory.

In Columbus, Ohio, temperatures dropped from 45 degrees Fahrenheit at 11 p.m. to 18 degrees at 2 a.m. Friday, and, in Atlanta, the temperature dropped from 48 degrees at 1:55 a.m. to 36 degrees at 3:55 a.m. Friday, CNN reported, adding that, in Washington, D.C., the temperatures were likely to drop from 49 degrees early Friday to about 15 degrees by 10:30 p.m., and, in New York, temperatures were expected to go down from 56 degrees early Friday to about 14 degrees by 5:30 p.m.

At least five people died in separate motor vehicle accidents in Oklahoma and Kansas on Thursday due to the coating of snow and ice on the roads, AccuWeather reported. At least one person died in the Dallas-Fort Worth area from freezing temperatures that dropped into the single digits by mid-day on Thursday. 

The winter storm, which was continuing to track east early Friday, will explode in intensity, rapidly becoming a bomb cyclone that could unleash powerful winds and blizzard conditions across the central U.S., AccuWeather forecasters said, explaining that a “bomb cyclone” refers to “explosive storm strengthening.”

“This is not like a snow day when you were a kid,” President Biden warned Thursday. “This is serious stuff.”

Weather officials have warned that frostbite is likely to be a significant danger.

Nearly 250,000 homes and businesses across the country — mostly in Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri and Louisiana — were without power early Friday, and power outages were expected to continue rising throughout the day, CNN said.

The number of flight cancellations within, into, or out of the United States stood at 3,086, as of early Friday, according to FlightAware. AccuWeather said about 5,000 flights are likely to be impacted and travel on the roadways may also be treacherous in many parts of the country. 

“Cold air plummets in behind this storm system, a gusty northwesterly winds. We’re talking about rapidly falling temperatures and even though there’s not going to be a lot of snow in many places, any standing water on the roadways can quickly freeze,” AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Jon Porter was quoted as saying.

Many churches might have to cancel their Christmas services, and some have opened their doors to serve as warming stations.

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