Weather: Frosty Christmas in the USA: flights canceled, several dead

Icy wind whips the snow across the highway.

Weather: Frosty Christmas in the USA: flights canceled, several dead

Icy wind whips the snow across the highway. From the car of a police officer in the US state of Wyoming you can hardly see his own hood: "Whiteout", the snow like a white wall, visibility is zero, every driver's nightmare. As can be seen in the police officer's dashcam video, which the New York Post newspaper published on its website, motorists in large parts of the north and midwest of the United States have been in the past few days.

Extreme frost, snowstorms and freezing winds: The USA will be hit by a cold wave over the Christmas period. The US weather service reported that more than 200 million Americans were affected by severe weather warnings on the day before Christmas. "From coast to coast" there were dangers from drastic temperature drops, freezing winds and massive snowfall. In the US states of Wyoming and Colorado, temperatures fell by around 40 degrees within 24 hours as the Arctic cold front passed through.

Warning of "historic" winter storm

The weather service had previously warned of a "historic" winter storm. US media, citing weather experts, warned of the possible emergence of a special and severe storm, a so-called "bomb cyclone". Values ​​of around minus 45 degrees Celsius have already been measured in the states of Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming. "This is not like a childhood snow day," President Joe Biden warned.

According to media reports, at least five people died in apparently weather-related traffic accidents in Kansas and Oklahoma by Friday. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg warned travelers on US television to be careful. Looking ahead to Christmas, he said: "Many motorists may not be used to driving in wintry conditions. (...) Please, please pay close attention to what the local authorities are saying." Several US states have declared a state of emergency, including New York.

More than 3000 flights canceled

There were also chaotic scenes at the airports. The FlightAware website reported that more than 3,000 flights had been canceled by Friday morning (local time). Especially passengers in the north, around the great lakes, can make up their Christmas travel plans. A video released by the Weather Channel's website shows an armada of snow plows attempting to clear the tarmac at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, one of the country's main airports.

It's particularly hard on those who don't have a roof over their heads. Across the country, helpers are trying to save the many homeless people from the cold. In a church mission in Augusta, Georgia, they were preparing for an onslaught, as the New York Times reported. "On a normal night it might not be a matter of life and death," said the head of mission. "But now." According to media reports, at least five homeless people froze to death in Salt Lake City, Utah, earlier this week. And even in Miami, where it's typically warm, the Homeless Relief has enacted its Cold Emergency Plan.

In the state of Texas, the extreme cold snap brings back dark memories. Last year, the power grid collapsed due to the cold, and millions of people were without electricity for days. According to studies, more than 200 people are said to have died as a result. But this time, be better prepared. "The power grid is ready and reliable," the New York Times quoted a manager as saying. As of Friday, more than 80,000 of more than 12 million power consumers in Texas were without power, according to the website Nationwide, more than a million people were affected.

Giant waves expected on the Great Lakes

The north of the country is particularly badly affected by ice, wind and snow - especially around the Great Lakes. "Swells of up to six meters in height are predicted at each of the Great Lakes," the Detroit Free Press newspaper quoted a scientist from the State Meteorological and Oceanographic Administration. Authorities have already responded on the east shore of Lake Erie, near Niagara Falls. In the city of Hamburg, New York, residents near the water have reportedly been asked to evacuate their homes.

The winter services also had their hands full in the metropolis of Chicago on the shores of Lake Michigan. Further east, in the state of Indiana, the governor has mobilized the National Guard to protect people from the expected snowstorms.

But just as quickly as the cold spook broke over the USA, it could also be over again. In some areas of the country's north-west, temperatures are expected to soar again soon once the core of the cold air has passed, the National Weather Service forecast. In many places it should be 20 to 30 degrees warmer by the weekend.