From a “bomb cyclone” in the Northwest to parade-halting rain in the northeast, a vast area of the United States has been paralyzed, or could be soon, by a buffet of severe weather just ahead of Thanksgiving.
The widespread storms choked transportation across the center of the nation on Tuesday, bringing 30 inches of snow in some areas and causing closed interstates and hundreds of canceled flights. Little relief was expected on Wednesday, with forecasters projecting powerful winds in the Northwest, whiteout blizzard conditions in the Midwest and rain in the Northeast that threatens to shut down airports.
More than 55 million people were expected to fly or drive out of town during one of the busiest travel weeks of the year. At least, that’s how many had hoped to.
A ‘bomb cyclone’ pummels the Northwest with hurricane-force winds
Heavy snows and whipping winds were expected in the Northwest through Wednesday morning in what the National Weather Service called a “historic, unprecedented” storm, unlike any that had hit the region since the 1960s. It was believed it would qualify as a bomb cyclone, a designation given when barometric pressure drops by at least 24 millibars in 24 hours.
Winds reached 106 m.p.h. on Tuesday near Cape Bianco, Ore., with sustained winds of 85 m.p.h., exceeding the 74 m.p.h. definition of hurricane force. Travelers were encouraged to stay off the roads, with as much as a foot of snow blanketing Northern California and Oregon.
The National Weather Service in Medford, Ore., said late Tuesday that “conditions should improve Wednesday afternoon.” Winds began gradually diminishing around midnight, forecasters said.
But the Sierra Nevada mountains were expected to be hammered by blizzards on Wednesday, with one to three feet of snow possible in areas.
The Midwest digs out
The storm that buried much of the Midwest on Tuesday was expected to continue east through the region toward New England by Wednesday night. High wind warnings, with potential wind gusts of up to 50 m.p.h., were in effect from Kansas City to western Ohio.
In the upper Midwest, forecasters at the National Weather Service predicted “a swath of moderate to heavy snow” on Wednesday.
“Severe travel disruptions are likely for these areas,” forecasters warned.