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Snow, high winds and bitterly cold temperatures blanket much of the US during the Christmas week

Snow, high winds and bitterly cold temperatures blanket much of the US during the Christmas week

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A rolling storm is threatening to deliver a triple whammy of heavy snow and high winds combined with extremely cold temperatures across much of the US on Wednesday, extending into the end of a busy travel week.

Forecasters are warning that this week’s powerful storm could disrupt travel as it hits areas from the northwest across the Plains, Great Lakes and central Appalachians before reaching the northeast by the end of the week, according to National Weather Service.

Winter weather advisories 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 in northern Idaho, northwestern Montana and western Wyoming, where more than a foot is forecast, the weather service said.

For many other areas in the north of the country, even if there is less snow, it is expected to be light and fluffy, and when blown by winds of 30 to 50 mph, it could make travel dangerous for the next two to three days.

Along with the wind, the brutally cold temperatures prompted wind chill warnings from the Gulf of Mexico to the US-Canada border and from the Pacific Northwest to the Southeast. The wind chill, which indicates how the wind feels, could be 50 to 70 degrees below zero, according to the weather service.

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

Throughout Wednesday, the storm system will pass through Montana, Idaho and Oregon by morning. It will begin affecting cities including Minneapolis, Omaha, Denver and Salt Lake City starting in the early afternoon and continuing into the evening.

In anticipation of what will likely be a week of travel nightmares, United, American, Delta, Southwest and Jet Blue have issued travel refusals for dozens of airports across the country from the south to the northeast as, in addition to snow covering roads, low visibility can make air travel dangerous.

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

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

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

“Colorado is about to experience extreme weather and cold temperatures, and the Guard is ready to help local communities to keep people safe during this extreme cold weather,” Polis said.

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

West Virginia has been declared a state of alert, according to the governor. Missouri also activated the state’s emergency operations plan, which frees up National Guard resources to respond to the storm’s impact if needed.

So far, snow has fallen mainly 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 grow into a bomb cycloneis expected to intensify quickly as temperatures drop sharply across much of the US by the end of the week.

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

Storms are more typically seen during winter nor’easter days. But in this week’s case, the bomb cyclone is expected to spawn in the plains, where there is an extreme temperature difference between the warm, moist air ahead of the storm and the arctic air mass coming in from Canada behind it.

The storm is expected to reach pressure equivalent to a Category 2 hurricane when it reaches the Great Lakes, with the weather service describing the low’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 a sharp drop in temperatures, can cause poor visibility and slippery patches on the roads. The sudden occurrence of these conditions can increase the danger, ”it meteorological service explain.

In addition, strong winds could knock down power lines from the Midwest to the Northeast, especially in areas where heavy snow fell last week and is already weighing down tree branches.

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