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Snow, strong winds and extremely cold temperatures grip much of the United States during Christmas week

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A sprawling storm threatens to deliver a triple whammy of heavy snow and strong winds combined with bitterly cold temperatures across much of the United States on Wednesday through the end of a busy travel week.

Forecasters have warned that this week’s powerful storm could disrupt travel as it batters northwest regions across the Plains, Great Lakes and central Appalachia before arriving in northeast here the end of the week, according to the National Weather Service.

Winter weather alerts are in effect for more than 70 million people from Washington State to Maryland.

The heaviest snow is expected to fall in the Cascades and northern Idaho, northwest Montana and western Wyoming, where more than a foot is expected, the weather service said.

For many other northern parts of the country, although less snow is falling, it is expected to be light and fluffy, and when blown by 30-50 mph winds it could making travel unsafe for the next two to three days.

In addition to the wind, brutally low temperatures triggered wind chill alerts from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canada-US border and from the Pacific Northwest to the Southeast. Wind chill, which indicates the feel of the wind, could be as low as 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit below zero, according to the weather service.

“Wind chills of this magnitude can cause frostbite in less than 5 minutes if precautions are not taken, with hypothermia also possible from prolonged exposure to the cold,” the weather service warned on Tuesday.

Throughout Wednesday, the storm system will move through Montana, Idaho and Oregon in the morning. It will begin affecting cities such as Minneapolis, Omaha, Denver and Salt Lake City in the early afternoon and continue through the evening.

In anticipation of what could be a nightmarish travel week, United, American, Delta, Southwest and Jet Blue have delivered traveling weavers for dozens of airports across the country from south to northeast, because in addition to snowy roads, low visibility could make air travel dangerous.

“With such a large and powerful storm system affecting the majority of the country during one of the busiest travel weeks of the year, it is imperative that travelers check the latest forecast before venturing out” , advised the weather service.

In response to the colossal storm, governors of several states across the country have taken some steps to prepare.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis has activated more than 100 National Guard members to support extreme cold weather operations across the state, according to a news release.

“Colorado is on the cusp of extreme weather and cold temperatures and the Guard stands ready to help local communities keep people safe during this extreme cold snap,” Polis said.

North Carolina declared a state of emergency on Tuesday to help transport fuel and essential supplies, as well as assist first responders and protect consumers from price hikes, the governor’s office said in a statement. .

West Virginia is underreported in readiness, according to the governor. Missouri also activated the state’s emergency operations plan, which frees up National Guard resources to respond to the impact of the storm if necessary.

A driver pulls his car out of a pile of snow in Barnegat Township, New Jersey, as he drives to work on Tuesday.

So far, snow has fallen primarily in parts of northern and central Montana, northern and central Idaho, eastern Oregon, western North Dakota, central South Dakota and western Colorado.

The storm, which is expected to develop into a bomb cyclone, is expected to strengthen rapidly as temperatures drop significantly across most of the United States by the end of the week.

For a storm to be defined as a cyclone bomb, it must drop 24 millibars (a measure of atmospheric pressure), in 24 hours.

Storms are more commonly seen with winter nor’easters. But in this week’s case, the bomb cyclone is expected to play out over the Plains, where there is an extreme temperature difference between the warm, moist air ahead of the storm and the arctic air mass coming from Canada behind it. .

The storm is expected to reach the pressure equivalent of a Category 2 hurricane when it hits the Great Lakes, with the weather service describing the depression’s strength as a “once in a generation” event.

This is a case where snow totals may not tell the whole story. Even small amounts of snow, combined with very strong wind gusts and plummeting temperatures, can cause poor visibility and slippery spots on the roads. The sudden onset of these conditions can increase the danger,” said the weather service Explain.

Additionally, high winds could bring down power lines from the Midwest to the northeast, especially in areas where heavy snowfall fell last week and is already weighing down tree branches.