An onslaught of winter storms continues to bring safety warnings and widespread travel disruption to North America.
An area of Arctic air from the north is effectively trapped in the middle of the continent, interacting with low pressure, meaning storms and precipitation on both east and west coastlines. David Parkinson, CBS News’ senior weather and climate producer estimated an extraordinary 142 million people had been subject to wind chill alerts and 100 million had received winter weather alerts.
Weather forecasts are predicting bitter and potentially violent winds, deep snow, poor visibility amid whiteout conditions, as well as dangerous formations of ice. The US National Weather Service (NWS) has issued warnings for 17 states at the time of writing. They are: Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, the Virginias and both Washington D.C. and Washington State.
Iowa could see record lows of around -30 degrees (-34°C) going into the launch of the Republican presidential contest, which is causing debate about access to voting stations and the effect on turnout.
Who has it worst?
The Cascades and the Pacific North West will see some of the worst snow with up to 28 inches (71 centimetres) and wind gusts of up to 45 mph (72 kph), while the north east of the country is braced for some of the coldest wind chill at -20 degrees Fahrenheit (-29°C).
Meanwhile, freezing rain, sleet and snow are hitting south central states such as Arkansas, as well as Louisiana and Mississippi. Treacherous ice is expected.
Martin Luther King bank holiday travel and beyond
At the time of writing, thousands of flights have been cancelled over and since the Martin Luther King Day bank holiday weekend. According to FlightAware, nearly 5,000 flight cancellations and 19,000 delays occurred across the US over Sunday and Monday alone, at airports including both Chicago Midway and O’Hare; Denver International; Houston Bush Intercontinental; Nashville International; and Seattle Tacoma International airport. Buffalo Niagara International Airport in New York State saw nearly half its flights cancelled.
Anyone expecting to travel should note, this summary is not an exhaustive list. It is wise to rethink unnecessary journeys and double check safety alerts for specific areas, which include Significant Threat alerts as well as Extreme Dangerous Cold warnings, Winter Storm warnings and Wind Chill warnings.
Checking with airports and airlines before you set out is always a good idea. Alaska Airlines, American, Delta, Southwest, and United are among the list of carriers affected. Most are offering flyers the ability to rebook flights without additional fees.