A mammoth storm threatened to dump mounds of fresh snow, sleet and ice on about 100 million people — a third of the US — yesterday as it barreled eastward across the US.
High winds and freezing rain threatened to turn roads into deadly ice rinks and knock down trees and power lines and forecasts warned of dangerously cold temperatures.
Blizzard, winter storm and freezing rain warnings were issued for more than half of the country’s 50 states, from North Dakota and Colorado down to New Mexico, then up through Texas, Kansas and Missouri to the Great Lakes region and across Pennsylvania to New England.
For Chicago, the National Weather Service said that the “dangerous multifaceted” storm with high winds and heavy snowfall with make travel “impossible” at times. “Do not travel,” it warned residents.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) urged residents to prepare in earnest for the fury of the storm.
“A storm of this size and scope needs to be taken seriously,” FEMA administrator Craig Fugate said. “It’s critical that the public does its part to get ready.”
Scores of schools and government offices were already closed in anticipation of dangerous conditions, while airlines warned of significant delays and cancellations and offered customers a chance to rebook flights at no fee.
The worst of the storm was expected yesterday afternoon and evening as a large amount of moisture sucked up from the Gulf of Mexico feeds the huge system and is transformed into snow and thunderstorms. Powerful winds and heavy snow could create whiteout conditions and drifts as high as 1.8m to 2.4m, making travel impossible.
“Lurking behind this impressive winter storm is a powerful shot of Arctic air as a frigid surface high drops down from central Canada,” the National Weather Service said.
Officials warned the public to stay at home rather than try to brave the crippling and potentially record-breaking storm.
As much as 45cm of snow was expected in the Chicago area and officials warned that plows would not be able keep up, making side streets impassable. Many other areas were predicted to get over 30cm of snow.