More than 100 million US citizens want to take a longer trip by car over the holidays. But arctic temperatures in large parts of the country can become a life-threatening trap. US President Biden is therefore calling for an immediate departure.
Large parts of the USA are threatened by a severe winter storm over the holidays. "This is not a snow day like you knew as a kid, this is serious," warned US President Joe Biden in a statement at the White House. The storm was "dangerous and threatening," he warned. "If you want to travel, leave immediately." He will send his staff home earlier, Biden said. There is still a phone for emergencies.
Meteorologists predict "life-threatening cold" for large parts of the USA in the coming days. The US Weather Service (NWS) warns of heavy snowfall, cold winds and temperatures of up to minus 50 degrees Celsius, especially in the north and midwest of the country. Blizzard-like conditions are to be expected, especially in the Great Lakes area. Black ice threatens on the east coast. There are warnings of bitter cold down to the southern border with Mexico. Several cities like Philadelphia or Sioux City could set cold records.
The cold front is said to have originated in Siberia and is currently spreading from the Rocky Mountains to the eastern half of the United States. The mountain range stretches almost 5,000 kilometers from Canada through six US states to New Mexico in the southern United States. In some places, the temperatures fell by a good 20 degrees Celsius within half an hour after the storm front arrived. Sometimes it gets so cold that there is a risk of frostbite within minutes, the authorities warn.
According to the AAA, 113 million Americans - roughly a third of the population - plan to drive 50 miles or more between December 23 and January 2. In most cases they want to visit their family over the holidays. According to the flight service FlightAware, almost 2,000 flights for Thursday and Friday were initially canceled. The states of Georgia, North Carolina and Kentucky declared states of emergency on Wednesday.
According to the NWS, those who can should refrain from driving in particularly affected parts of the country. The weather service warns that the situation can become life-threatening if you break down on the road with your car.
The southern United States is also affected. An extreme frost warning has been issued for the states of Louisiana, parts of Mississippi, Alabama and Texas. The governor of Louisiana urged residents of his state to prepare for Arctic temperatures. "Please take care of your friends, your neighbors or family members," says the governor's official website. In some parts of Louisiana, which typically has a more subtropical climate, "life-threatening" temperatures of as low as minus 15 degrees with strong winds are expected.
"We're expecting weather like we haven't seen in a decade or more," Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp warned. Temperatures of minus twelve degrees Celsius were predicted for the state on the South Atlantic coast of the USA.
How dangerous cold snaps of this kind can be in the southern United States was shown in February 2021 in the state of Texas. At that time, the power grid collapsed due to the sudden cold, gas pipelines froze and power plants had to be shut down. Millions of people were left without electricity in the freezing cold, sometimes for days, and many died.