At least five people have died as a severe winter storm hits central and eastern parts of the United States. The storm, which is expected to bring heavy snow, damaging winds, freezing rain, and dangerous cold to multiple states, has prompted six governors to declare a state of emergency. This activates their emergency response and operations plans. New York Governor Kathy Hochul has issued a traffic ban on part of Interstate 90 due to the incoming storm’s expected severity, and Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, Georgia, and North Carolina have also declared states of emergency.
In addition to the fatalities in Oklahoma, caused by separate motor vehicle accidents, flight disruptions have also been widespread. The Federal Aviation Administration has delayed flights at Reagan National Airport in Washington, Philadelphia International Airport, and at both Newark and John F. Kennedy airports in the New York metropolitan area. So far, over 2,300 flights have been cancelled across the US during a busy holiday travel week. Blizzard conditions are expected to last multiple days in Buffalo, with feet of snow and 70 mph wind gusts likely, according to the National Weather Service. Travel in the area is expected to be “extremely difficult to impossible at times.”
Ohio is expected to face a “unique and dangerous” situation throughout the Christmas weekend, with flash freezing conditions beginning tonight and lasting through Friday morning, according to Governor Mike DeWine. Extreme temperatures are expected to reach close to zero on Thursday night, and the entire state will be hit with flash freezing by 4 a.m. ET on Friday. Some US residents are opting to hit the road instead of flying due to flight cancellations, but the winter weather is also causing potential delays for the US Postal Service.
Overall, the winter storm is expected to have a significant impact on travel and daily life in the affected areas. Governors in at least 12 states have enacted emergency measures and cold weather protocols as the severe winter weather impacts much of the US. Wind chill alerts cover nearly half of the country’s population. President Joe Biden has stated that he has been in touch with 26 governors, some of whom had already declared states of emergency ahead of the storm. It is being referred to as a “once-in-a-generation” winter storm due to its expected severity and wide-reaching effects.