More than 1,500 flights within, to and out of the United States were canceled Wednesday as severe weather wreaked havoc with massive storms threatening to bring record snowfall across America.
Residents across the northern Plains will be hunkering down as the storm hits, with schools across the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin announcing closures ahead of the severe weather system, which is expected to affect millions while California contends with strong winds and sweeping power outages.
The National Weather Service issued winter storm, blizzard and high-wind advisories for swaths of the western and the north-central U.S., with up to 2 feet of snow expected in some areas through Thursday.
More than 55 million people, from the Northern Plains to Boston and Maine and along the western U.S. coast, were under winter weather warnings or advisories Wednesday night, according to the weather service.
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Officials have also warned residents to stay off the roads because of potential “whiteout” conditions.
In normally sunny Southern California, blizzard warnings were issued for mountain regions of northern Los Angeles County, the first such alerts in more than 30 years.
At least 4,728 flights, within, into or out of the United States, had been delayed by late Wednesday afternoon, according to the online flight tracker FlightAware.
There were 1,556 U.S. flight cancellations by 6 p.m. EST, and at least 425 of those called-off journeys were related to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. At least 270 cancellations were listed out of or into Denver International Airport.
'Numerous weather hazards'
The arrival of a large arctic air mass from Canada "interacting with an energetic upper-level pattern and multiple frontal systems forecast to move through the country this week will bring numerous weather hazards," the weather service said.
Widespread heavy snow is expected to continue across the West and the northern tier of the country, with total snowfall of 1 to 2 feet expected for most of the mountain ranges across the West, the agency said. The heaviest amounts of snowfall are expected to fall across east-central Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin, it said.
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Wind gusts could also reach 50 mph, with wind chills expected to reach minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit in parts of the Dakotas and Minnesota, according to the weather service.
The Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis were set for as much as 17 inches of snow through Thursday evening, the National Weather Service said.
A tornado tore through Mercer County in New Jersey at about 4 p.m. Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.
Most of the damage was at the Lawrence Square Village complex in Lawrenceville where 27 condo units were left "uninhabitable," Mercer County spokesperson Julie Willmot said Wednesday.
Residents warned to 'limit travel'
"We’re working to ensure we’re ready — and Minnesotans have a part to play, too. Plan ahead, drive safe, and limit travel," Walz tweeted.
“Snowplow crews will be out working statewide, but this storm could be a doozy,” the Minnesota Department of Transportation said in a tweet.
Schools across the state also announced closures, with Minneapolis Public Schools saying on its website that all its buildings would be closed "due to the upcoming winter storm."
“We will have e-learning days for all MPS students for the remainder of this week,” the district said.
Heavy winds and power outages
California is also facing winter weather, with winds that began Tuesday expected to bring possible rain, snow and hail to parts of the state.
Power outages in the state eased somewhat Wednesday, with about 68,000 customers without power by about 3 p.m. local time — down from the more than 97,000 customers earlier in the day, according to outage tracking website PowerOutage.us.
The weather service warned that "there will be little to no break from the active weather in California as another Pacific storm system is forecast to approach the coast late Thursday, with continued lower elevation rain/higher elevation snow chances."
Record warm elsewhere
Meanwhile, moderate to locally heavy rains, as well as some thunderstorms, are expected for lower elevations of the West Coast, with rain expected to spread southward from the Pacific Northwest on Wednesday to the California coast by Thursday.
As much of the U.S. contends with snow and cold weather, record warmth is expected to hit the mid-Atlantic and the Southeast.
The weather service said highs Wednesday to Thursday will soar into the 70s and 80s from the southern Plains east into the Southeast, the Midwest and the mid-Atlantic. “These highs on Thursday will be particularly anomalous for the Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic, where temperatures 40+ degrees above average will feel more like June than February.”
Cities across the South were expected to register record or near-record high temperatures Wednesday.
Orlando, Florida, could reach 88 degrees, possibly tying the all-time high set in 2003.
The thermometer in Lexington, Kentucky, will gallop to about 78 degrees, forecasters said, which would break the record of 70 degrees set in 1922.
The mercury in Nashville, Tennessee, might reach 77 degrees and surpass the record 74-degree mark from 1897.
CORRECTION (Feb. 22, 2023, 6:32 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misattributed a quote about the snow being forecast to “taper off to the north Wednesday and focus further south through Thursday.” That quote was from the National Weather Service, not Minneapolis Public Schools. It has since been removed from the article.