MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Temperatures plunged far and fast Thursday as a winter storm formed ahead of Christmas weekend, promising heavy snow, ice, flooding and powerful winds across a broad swath of the country and complicating holiday travel.
The National Weather Service reported that temperatures across the central High Plains plummeted 50 degrees Fahrenheit in just a few hours. In much of the country, the Christmas weekend could be the coldest in decades.
“This is not like a snow day when you were a kid,” President Joe Biden warned Thursday in the Oval Office after a briefing from federal officials. “This is serious stuff.”
The frigid air will move through the central United States to the east, with windchill advisories affecting about 135 million people over the coming days, weather service meteorologist Ashton Robinson Cook said Thursday.
Forecasters are expecting a bomb cyclone — when atmospheric pressure drops very quickly in a strong storm — to develop near the Great Lakes, which will increase winds and create blizzard conditions, Cook said.
In Texas, temperatures were expected to quickly plummet Thursday, but state leaders promised there wouldn’t be a repeat of the February 2021 storm that overwhelmed the state’s power grid and was blamed for hundreds of deaths.
Gov. Greg Abbott, in a news conference Wednesday, was confident the state could handle the increased demand for energy as the temperatures dropped.
“I think trust will be earned over the next few days as people see that we have ultra-cold temperatures and the grid is going to be able to perform with ease,” he said.
The cold weather extended to El Paso and across the border into Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, where migrants have been camping outside or filling shelters as they await a decision on whether the U.S. will lift restrictions that have prevented many from seeking asylum.
Elsewhere in the U.S., authorities worried about the potential for power failures and warned people to take precautions to protect older and homeless people and livestock — and, if possible, to postpone travel.
“This event could be life-threatening if you are stranded with wind chills in the 30 below to 45 below zero range,” according to an online post by the National Weather Service in Minnesota, where transportation and patrol officials reported dozens of crashes and vehicles off the road.Pacific Northwest braces for extreme cold and iceThe Pacific Northwest is bracing for extreme cold temperatures and an ice storm heading into the holiday weekend.