Hundreds of flights cancelled across midwestern states while bomb cyclone strands drivers in California and Oregon
A day after bringing havoc to the Rocky mountains, a powerful winter storm rolled across the US midwest on Wednesday, threatening to scramble Thanksgiving plans for millions during one of the busiest travel weeks of the year.
The storm, which was blamed for one death and hundreds of canceled flights, pushed east into South Dakota, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. It dropped close to a foot of snow in some areas even as it weakened and headed for New York and Pennsylvania.
The west was not free of heavy weather. A bomb cyclone caused by a rapid drop in air pressure brought snow to the mountains and wind and rain along the California and Oregon coasts. Drivers on Interstate 5 near the Oregon-California border spent 17 hours or more in stopped traffic as blizzard conditions whirled. Some slept in their vehicles.
Its one of those things, you couldnt make it up if you tried, National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologist Brent Hewett said of back-to-back storms forming around the holiday.
Christina Williams and her 13-year-old son, who live in Portland, Oregon, got stuck as they tried to drive to San Francisco for Thanksgiving. Williams said she and other stranded drivers connected on Twitter using weather-related hashtags and began to communicate to find out what conditions were like in other parts of the backup.
There were spinouts everywhere, she said. There were trucks that were abandoned. And every time we stopped and started moving again, there were people who couldnt start moving again. Every time we stopped I was like, Is this it? Are we going to be here overnight?
It took more than 17 hours to reach Redding, California, where they got a hotel room.
Snow and downed trees and power lines closed roads. Others were reduced to a single lane, officials said. Northbound lanes of Interstate 5, which runs parallel to the coast, were reopened later Wednesday from Reddin to the Oregon border. The southbound lanes at Ashland, Oregon, reopened earlier in the day.
Transportation officials and other agencies tried to communicate the seriousness of the storm but many drivers were still caught by surprise, said Don Anderson, deputy director of the California Department of Transportation in Redding.
Minneapolis awoke to as much as 9in of snow. Drivers were warned to stay off the roads at least until the winds died down.
If you can wait a little bit today, the better off youll be because the roads will be cleared, and our snow is pretty much wrapping up, said Tyler Hasenstein, an NWS meteorologist in Minneapolis.
At the citys main airport, Delta Air Lines filled de-icing tanks, called in extra flight dispatchers and assigned some of its 20 in-house meteorologists to focus on the forecast.
Airport spokesman Patrick Hogan said three runways were open on Wednesday, but Federal Aviation Administration data showed delays of more than an hour.
At Chicagos OHare Airport, one of the nations busiest, the FAA said heavy traffic was causing delays of 30 minutes and rising. Airlines worried things could get worse if winds picked up.
In the citys Loop business district, high winds peeled a wooden sign off scaffolding at Willis Tower. The sign slammed into two vehicles and smashed a window, hurting a cab driver, who was taken to a hospital with an arm injury, police said.
The northern reaches of Wisconsin saw 7in to 10in of snow, with more coming down. The Milwaukee airport reported wind and rain but there was no snow within a hundred miles of the city.
Before its over, the systems effects could extend all the way to New England, where snow was possible over the weekend, the NWS said.
In New York, the windy forecast could mean disappointment for fans of the larger-than-life balloons flown at Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Organizers prepared for the possibility of grounding the iconic balloon characters because of expected 40mph to 50mph gusts. Rules adopted after several people were injured by a balloon years ago require the balloons to be flown lower or not at all if sustained winds exceed 23mph and gusts exceed 34mph. The decision was to be made on Thursday.