CHICAGO, US — A massive winter storm has slammed into the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest regions of the United States, unleashing high winds and heavy snow that has resulted in numerous school closures, grounded air travel, and hazardous road conditions. More than 50 million Americans are currently under winter weather advisories due to the storm’s impact.
The National Weather Service has warned that some areas could see up to 2 feet (60 cm) of snow and winds of up to 60 miles (97 km) an hour throughout the day and into Thursday. Sioux Falls, South Dakota, has already experienced 17 inches (43 cm) of snow, with wind gusts of up to 45 mph (72 kph) and temperatures hovering around 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-5 C). Bre Bethke, a manager at M.B. Haskett Delicatessen in Sioux Falls, stated that the weather was so severe that she couldn’t even open the drive-through window for customers.
The winter storm has also impacted California, with a mixture of snow and sleet affecting the East Coast, including New England. Forecasters have issued warnings for motorists to remain cautious while driving on slippery roads.
According to Frank Pereira, a forecaster with the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland, snow-covered roads will make travel highly dangerous in the Upper Midwest, and falling trees and ice-covered power lines may cause power outages late on Wednesday and into Thursday.
Experts suggest that the increasing frequency and intensity of such winter storms, interspersed with periods of extreme heat and dry spells, are symptoms of climate change. Although the East Coast has experienced a relatively mild winter, the Northern Plains has been hit hard by excessive snowfall and frigid temperatures.
Minneapolis is among the hardest-hit cities in the Midwest, with expectations of some 20 inches (50 cm) of snow and 45-mph (72-kph) winds causing whiteouts. St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter has declared a state of emergency, and motorists have been advised to avoid driving on the roads. Minneapolis’ school system has announced that it will hold remote classes for over 29,000 pupils for the rest of the week. Dozens of school districts in the Dakotas, Colorado, and Wyoming have also canceled classes due to the winter storm.
The storm has wreaked havoc on morning air travel, with 3,500 flights delayed or canceled across the country, including 470 flights into and out of Minneapolis. A band of freezing rain has also affected central Iowa through Chicago and into southern Michigan, resulting in icy roads, trees, and power lines with up to a 1/4 inch (0.6 cm) of ice coating.
The winter storm hit California on Tuesday and is anticipated to continue through the week’s end. The National Weather Service has issued a rare blizzard warning for Los Angeles County mountains, marking the first time since 1989.