Winter storm in US will bring coldest Christmas in decades

A major winter storm sweeping the United States this week could bring the coldest Christmas in four decades to some parts of the country, forecasters say.

The “once-in-a-generation” cold snap — which kicked off Tuesday in the Pacific Northwest, before simmering eastward — will become a “bomb cyclone” by Friday.

More than 90 million people are on winter weather alerts in 37 states.

About 80 percent of the nation will experience sub-zero temperatures, including places as far south as Texas.

Called Winter Storm Elliot by the Weather Channel, the Arctic blast is expected to bring the coldest Christmas to the Midwest since the late 1980s, according to forecasts cited by US media.

Florida, the Sunshine State, will also experience the coldest Christmas in 30 years.

The National Weather Service (NWS) said that bone-chilling temperatures of -50F (-45C) and -70F would be possible in parts of the country by the end of this week.

Photo of a car dumped in the snow in Chicago

The storm is expected to bring high winds and heavy snow, making pre-holiday travel conditions hazardous

“Wind chills of this magnitude can cause frostbite in less than five minutes if precautions are not taken, with hypothermia and death also possible from prolonged exposure to cold,” its advisory said.

The NWS called it a once-in-a-generation winter weather event, especially as the storm reaches the Great Lakes region, where its pressure is expected to reach the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane.

The governors of Kentucky and North Carolina have declared states of emergency.

Snowy conditions and icy roads are expected to wreak travel havoc this weekend.

“We had a great Thanksgiving week with minimal disruption,” US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told cable channel MSNBC Wednesday.

“Unfortunately, that won’t be the case before Christmas.”

Hundreds of flights from Denver and Chicago have already been cancelled.

Denver is expected to bear the brunt of the cold snap Thursday morning as temperatures plummet to -16F.

The Denver Coliseum, an indoor arena, is converted into a warm-up center.

Chicago was warned to prepare for heavy snow starting Thursday, lashed by gusts exceeding 50 mph.

As the storm develops, forecasters predict it will develop into a “bomb cyclone.”

What is a bomb cyclone?

Bomb cyclone is a term given to a rapidly intensifying storm, with its central air pressure dropping to at least 24 millibars in 24 hours.

They are referred to as bomb cyclones due to the explosive power caused by the rapid drop in pressure.

Such storms bring weather ranging from blizzards to severe thunderstorms to heavy precipitation.

Bomb cyclones are most common on the east coast of the United States and Canada, where the cold land and warm current of the Gulf Stream provide optimal conditions.

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