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American suspenders for a dangerous blow of cold, wind and snow

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KANSAS CITY, MO. (AP) — Much of the United States is bracing for a dangerous mix of sub-zero temperatures, howling winds and blizzard conditions that are expected to disrupt the plans of millions of vacationers.

The blast of freezing weather began pounding the Pacific Northwest on Tuesday morning, and it expected to move north of the Rockies, then gripped the plains in deep freeze and blanketed the Midwest in heavy falls. of snow, according to forecasters. By Friday, the arctic front is expected to spread freezing cold as far as Florida.

Authorities across the country are concerned about the potential for power outages and are warning people to take precautions to protect the elderly, the homeless and livestock – and, if possible, postpone travel.

The northernmost regions of the United States could see wind chills approaching 70 degrees below zero (minus 57 degrees Celsius) – cold enough to leave exposed skin frozen in minutes.

Even hot states are preparing for the worst. Texas officials hope to avoid a repeat of the February storm 2021 which left millions of people without power, some for several days. Temperatures are expected to drop to near zero as far south as central Florida by the weekend.

The drop in temperature will be brutal. In Denver, the high on Wednesday will be around 50 degrees (10 degrees Celsius); By Thursday, it is expected to drop to around zero (minus 18 degrees Celsius).

The heaviest snow is expected in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, according to the National Weather Service, and freezing winds will be fierce in the middle part of the country.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a lot of wind delays and also a lot of snow delays,” said Bob Oravec, chief forecaster for the National Weather Service in College Park, Maryland.

The North West was already feeling the effects on Tuesday. In Vancouver, Canada, authorities at the city’s YVR airport said the conditions have resulted in an “unprecedented number of canceled flights”, adding that cancellations and delays “will persist for the majority of scheduled flights” and de-icing operations will continue to be required. In Seattle, a combination of snow, rain and low visibility caused nearly 200 flight cancellations at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Greyhound has canceled bus service between Seattle and Spokane, Washington.

In Oregon, a person died Tuesday after a tractor-trailer collided with an SUV. Police said a thin layer of ice on the highway may have been a contributing factor.

Nearly 113 million Americans were expected to travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday season, up 4% from last year but still below the record high of 119 million in 2019, according to AAA. Most planned to travel by car; about 6% planned to fly.

Several inches of snow were expected from Chicago across the Great Lakes region by Friday. Snow was also forecast for the lower Midwest. As the storm approached, Delta, American, United and Southwest airlines said they were expecting change fees for people traveling through affected airports.

The National Weather Service has predicted wind chill levels in Montana that could approach 60 below zero (minus 51 degrees Celsius) by Thursday morning. Almost impossible, the forecast was even worse for parts of Wyoming. The town of Lusk, which has a population of 1,500, could experience a wind chill of 70 degrees below zero (minus 57 degrees Celsius).

“Please take precautions: watch the elderly/vulnerable, protect pets, shelter livestock, cover exposed skin!” said the local branch of the National Weather Service on Twitter.

Karina Jones’ family raises about 400 head of cattle in north-central Nebraska near Broken Bow, where wind chills as low as 50 below zero (minus 46 degrees Celsius) are expected Thursday and Friday morning. She said Nebraska cattle ranchers are “a warm bunch,” but the freezing cold is harsh.

Ranchers “stay awake at night praying that you do everything you can for your livestock,” Jones said.

In Kansas, where up to 4 inches of snow are expected to accompany wind chills dipping to 40 below zero (minus 40 degrees Celsius), Shawn Tiffany runs three feedlots with about 35,000 cattle combined. He worries about keeping 40 employees safe and warm.

Every conversation I’ve had in the last four days has been ‘Are you ready and are you ready?’ Everyone takes it very seriously,” Tiffany said.

In Texas, where the temperature is expected to drop to around 11 degrees (minus 12 degrees Celsius), the state’s power grid will be put to the test again.

A historic frost in February 2021 led to one of the largest blackouts in US history, knocking out power to 4 million customers in Texas and resulting in hundreds of deaths.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the state’s power grid, said last week that it expects to have enough generation to meet forecast electricity demand during this winter’s blast. week. The board said it had implemented reforms to increase reliability, including bringing more production online sooner if needed and buying more reserve power.

But a power grid report released by ERCOT last month says Texans could still face potential power outages this winter if an extreme storm causes very high power demand.

In Jackson, Mississippi, where dangerously cold weather is expected by the weekend, all eyes are on the capital’s struggling water system. A cold snap in 2021 left tens of thousands of people without running water after pipes froze, and Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said on Monday the water distribution system remained a “huge vulnerability”.

The freezer will be particularly dangerous for homeless people. Salt Lake City will make 95 more shelter beds available after five people died in recent days amid sub-freezing temperatures, said Mayor Erin Mendenhall, a Democrat.

In Kansas City, Missouri, emergency shelters are opening up for anyone in need of warmth, food or safety. Organizers warn, however, that capacity is limited overnight.

“We’re going to get as many as we can,” said Karl Ploeger, development director of City Union Mission, a Christian nonprofit.

If shelters are overcrowded at night, the mission works with other organizations to try to find alternatives for people.

North Florida cities such as Tallahassee can see temperatures in the low 20s (minus 3 degrees Celsius) on Fridays, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Nights. Forecasts call for temperatures to drop to near zero as far south as Tampa.


Lozano reported from Houston and Funk reported from Omaha, Nebraska. Claire Rush in Portland, Oregon, Julie Walker in New York, Jeff Martin in Atlanta, Jill Zeman Bleed in Little Rock, Arkansas, Dee-Ann Durbin in Detroit, Michael Goldberg in Jackson, Mississippi, Amy Hanson in Helena, Montana, and Sam Metz in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.

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