Winter storm stymies US travel, cuts power to over 1m homes – World

More than two-thirds of the US population was under an extreme weather alert on Friday as a deep freeze enveloped much of the country ahead of the holiday weekend, thwarting travel plans and leaving more than a million homes and businesses without power.

With a column of bitter cold that stretched from Texas to Montana starting to march eastward, more than 240m people in the United States were under some sort of winter weather advisory on Friday, the National Weather Service said.

Hard-freeze warnings were posted in parts of the Southern states of Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, and Georgia.

Numbing cold intensified by high winds even extended to the US-Mexico border, with wind chill temperatures reaching the single digits in the border city of El Paso, Texas.

Temperatures dipped into the teens in Fahrenheit throughout Texas’ south-central Hill Country on Friday morning.

Weather forecasters said the blizzard over the Midwest had formed into a “bomb cyclone” over Lake Erie on Friday and was moving east and expected to drop blinding snow from the northern Plains and Great Lakes region to the upper Mississippi Valley and western New York state.

The weather service map of existing or impending wintry hazards “depicts one of the greatest extents of winter weather warnings and advisories ever”, the agency said.

The Midwest’s “bomb cyclone” — a phenomenon that occurs when the air pressure drops drastically within a 24-hour period and speeds up a storm’s intensity — could drop upwards of 35 inches of snow in Buffalo, New York; 13 inches in Kalamazoo, Michigan; and 17 inches in Erie, Pennsylvania, weather service meteorologist Ashton Robinson Cook said.

The lowest temperature in the United States on Friday morning was recorded in Havre, Montana, where the thermometer read minus 38 F (negative 38 Celsius), Cook said.

But the freeze in the American South could prove to be an even bigger public safety threat, as those regions are less accustomed to the cold and snow.

“Bundle up and stay indoors if you can, and check on your neighbours,” Cook said.

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