At least one killed as storm moves east from California, stranding drivers as authorities warn travel could be impossible
A powerful storm making its way east across the US from California is causing major disruptions during the years busiest travel weekend, as forecasters warned that intensifying snow and ice could thwart millions of people across the country hoping to get home after Thanksgiving.
The storm caused the death of at least one person in South Dakota and shut down highways in the western US, stranding drivers in California and prompting authorities in Arizona to plead with travelers to wait out the weather before attempting to travel.
The storm was tracking into the lains on Friday and expected to track east through the weekend into the midwest by Saturday and the north-east on Sunday pummeling a huge portion of the country with snow, ice or flash flooding.
The National Weather Service said travel could become impossible in some places.
The weather could be particularly disruptive on Sunday, when millions of holiday travelers head home. Airlines for America, the airline industrys trade group, expects 3.1 million passengers during what could be the busiest day ever recorded for American air travel.
The weather service issued storm warnings Friday for a swath of the country stretching from Montana to Nebraska to Wisconsin, with heavy snow anticipated in parts of Utah, Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming.
Gusts up to 90 mph were possible in mountains and foothills, and could reach 65 mph in the Plains, creating poor visibility.
Northern Michigan University reopened its residence halls two days earlier than normal for a Thanksgiving weekend, to give students more options as forecasters predicted a foot or more of snow.
We want to make people aware of what they could be driving into, the campus police chief, Mike Bath, said.
The airline industry group estimated a record 31.6 million people will travel over a 12-day holiday period. Airlines on Friday said they were so far operating as usual as they monitored the weather.
Delta said inclement weather could disrupt travel at airports in the upper midwest on Saturday and the north-east on Sunday and Monday. It offered to let customers reschedule or cancel flights. American Airlines issued similar waivers for Rapid City, South Dakota.
Sections of South Dakota were under a blizzard warning and could see howling winds and as much as 2ft (0.6 meters) of snow. Authorities reported a fatal crash in the state after a driver lost control of his pickup on an ice-covered road. A 37-year-old passenger died after the truck slid into a ditch and rolled.
Utah highway patrol troopers were dealing with a huge smattering of wrecks across the state starting on Friday afternoon, Sgt Brady Zaugg told the Salt Lake Tribune.
The National Weather Service announced on Friday evening that three tornados had hit parts of the Phoenix area early Friday. Bianca Hernandez, a meteorologist, said tornado warnings are highly unusual for Arizona any time of the year.
Fog forced delayed flights and cancellations at Denver international airport Friday.