A wild winter storm continues to engulf much of the United States and has brought dazzling blizzards, freezing rain, floods, and life-threatening cold, causing chaos among Christmas travelers.
The storm, which hit earlier in the week, has brought down power lines, littered motorways with stacks of cars in fatal accidents and, according to flight tracking website FlightAware, has already caused more than 1,000 flights to be canceled on Saturday.
On Friday, the number of canceled flights was almost 5,700, while on Thursday there were 2,700 cancellations.
Heavy snowfall and howling winds have swept across much of the nation, including the normally temperate southern states.
According to the National Weather Service (NWS), more than 200 million Americans were warned of weather warnings as wind chills caused temperatures to drop down to minus 48 degrees Celsius (minus 55 Fahrenheit).
More than a million US electricity customers were groped in the dark on Friday as the winter storm hit the country.
The storm was almost unprecedented in its magnitude and extended from the Great Lakes near Canada to the Rio Grande along the border with Mexico.
Freezing rain covered much of the Pacific Northwest with a layer of ice, while people in the northeast were at risk of coastal and inland flooding.
Midwestern freeways were subject to long delays due to snowy weather or accidents, and authorities in parts of Indiana, Michigan, New York, and Ohio told motorists to avoid unnecessary travel.
Passenger rail Amtrak has canceled dozens of trains by Christmas, affecting holiday traffic for thousands.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) imposed ground stops or de-icing delays at a number of US airports due to winter weather.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told the CNN media network that the US aviation system is “under tremendous strain,” as two different storms and strong winds are affecting airports across the country. About 10 percent of U.S. flights were canceled on Thursday, Buttigieg said.
Another 10,400 U.S. flights were delayed on Friday — including more than 40 percent of flights operated by American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines — in addition to the 11,300 flights that were delayed on Thursday.
Southwest canceled 1,238 flights on Friday, 29 percent of all scheduled flights, while Alaska Airlines canceled 507, or 64 percent of its flights.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport canceled 357 flights, or 63 percent of departures, on Friday. The FAA lifted a ground stop there due to snow and ice, but late on Friday, delays still averaged almost three hours.
Almost half of Detroit Metro’s outbound flights were canceled, along with 70 percent in Portland, 38 percent in New York’s LaGuardia, 29 percent in Chicago O’Hare and 27 percent in Boston.