A powerful blast of arctic weather caused subzero temperatures and stranded motorists in the Great Plains on Thursday before heading east ahead of Christmas.
The mercury dipped to minus-3 degrees in Wichita, Kansas, by midday and Kansas City officials warned of icy roads and low visibility as the system swept across the middle of the country Thursday, canceling more than 1,000 flights and catching the attention of the White House.
“This is not like a snow day when you were a kid. This is serious stuff,” President Biden said.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency that lasts until Monday as the state braces for temperatures that will plummet into the teens and create icy conditions.
“Communities across the state are about to see temperatures that they haven’t experienced in a decade or more,” said Mr. Kemp, a Republican.
Oklahoma Gov. J. Kevin Stitt and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear also declared states of emergency in response to the sprawling weather system.
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“A major and anomalous storm system is forecast to produce a multitude of weather hazards through early this weekend, as heavy snowfall, strong winds, and dangerously cold temperatures span from the northern Great Basin through the Plains, Upper Midwest, Great Lakes and the northern/central Appalachians,” the National Weather Service said in a forecast discussion.
Snowfall amounts of up to a foot are expected in the Great Lakes region, though a low-pressure system known as a “bomb cyclone” will make it feel worse than typical wintry weather.
“The snowfall totals may not seem all that impressive with this storm, but combined with very strong winds over an extended period of time will create blizzard conditions that can bring travel to a halt and strain infrastructure,” the weather service said.
Rainfall and the new moon-tide cycle could spark coastal flooding from the Delaware-Maryland region to Maine, and parts of New England could see flooding from rain falling on fresh snowpack.
The arctic front is scrambling Americans’ travel plans on the cusp of Christmas weekend. FlightAware, a tracking website, reported more than 1,800 canceled flights within, into or out of the U.S. as of 1 p.m. Thursday.
The West got hit by the creeping front earlier in the week.
The NWS said the temperature in Cheyenne, Wyoming, dropped 43 degrees in one hour — a record — on Wednesday, while Denver International Airport saw its biggest one-hour drop, 37 degrees.
Highways patrols in Wyoming and Colorado reported hundreds of calls for help due to poor visibility on the roads and over 1,000 flights have been canceled across the U.S., according to CNN.