Thanksgiving weather: Travel chaos as US warned of 'snow emergency' after record-breaking bomb cyclone

Severe weather across the US snarls traffic and grounds flights as millions of Americans prepare for holiday weekend

Alex Woodward
New York
Wednesday 27 November 2019 22:53
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Strong winds rip roof off hardware store in Crescent City, California

The west coast of the United States is reeling after a record-breaking "bomb cyclone" delivered heavy snow, strong winds and freezing rain across California, while cities across the country prepare for a "snow emergency" and millions of Americans scuttle travel plans ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

A pair of severe winter storms halted hundreds of flights and closed hundreds of miles of highway across the US, buckling in for a week of back-to-back, coast-to-coast storms bringing record-breaking snowfall, power outages and severe weather advisories impacting millions of people.

Hundreds of drivers were stranded on interstates in California and Oregon as blizzard-like conditions caused white-outs and piled-up snow.

More than 360,000 power outages were reported across California, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio as part of a "major outage event".

The "bomb cyclone" brought 100 mph winds and up to a foot of snow in some areas when it landed on 26 November. The massive weather system has weakened, though it's expected to continue pounding parts of the Sierra Nevada and deliver more snow across Colorado, Nevada and Utah as it lingers in the central US.

The National Weather Service predicts the snowfall total across the region will "likely to be in the one to two foot range".

Heavy rains, flash floods and coastal flooding also are likely in southern California through Thanksgiving, moving into the Southwest by Friday morning.

Meanwhile, east of that storm, a "kitchen sink" system that brought more snow and rain across the central US earlier this week has settled near the Great Lakes.

Further south, whipping winds brought tornadoes to Louisiana and Mississippi, where nearly a dozen homes were damaged outside Jackson.

More than a dozen cities in the Minneapolis area declared a "snow emergency" after more than eight inches of snow fell overnight and into Wednesday morning.

Forecasters predict the snowstorm won't reach New England as the system continues moving eastward, but parts of New Hampshire and northern Maine could receive four to six inches of snow by Friday.

Instead, that storm will spread windy conditions across New England over Thanksgiving, potentially threatening the nationally televised Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, which hasn't grounded its iconic balloons in nearly 50 years.

Travel organisation AAA predicted more than 55 million American had planned to travel 50 miles or more for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Airlines for America estimates roughly 32 million people would be flying between 22 November and 3 December.

Nearly 500 flights at Denver International Airport were cancelled on Tuesday.

The National Weather Service warns "significant travel impacts" are likely as conditions worsen. Authorities across the US have alerted drivers to stay off the road if possible.

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