(CNN) — A major winter storm battering much of the central and eastern US is causing record-breaking temperature drops and harsh snow conditions that have led to flight cancellations, road closures and several state emergency declarations.
The storm is affecting nearly every state, with more than 100 million people in the US currently under winter weather and wind chill warnings, which the National Weather Service calls a “once-in-a-generation event.”
As an arctic front moves eastward, record-breaking temperature drops are observed.
Denver experienced a drop of 24 degrees Fahrenheit in just seven minutes this Wednesday afternoon. A drop of 37 degrees in one hour at Denver International Airport is preliminarily the largest ever recorded there, according to the National Metereological Service in Boulder.
And Cheyenne, Wyoming, saw a 30 degree Fahrenheit drop in temperature in just 10 minutes and a record 43 degree F drop in one hour.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency Wednesday, saying, “Communities across the state are about to see temperatures they haven’t experienced in a decade or more.”
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear also declared a state of emergency Wednesday, and Maryland activated emergency response operations ahead of the winter storm.
More than 1,100 flights have been canceled across the US, according to the flight tracking site FlightAwaremaking air travel difficult in the midst of the busy Christmas season.
And road conditions were no better in many areas. This Thursday is expected to be the toughest day for travel as the storm lashes the Midwest with heavy snow and wind.
Nearly zero visibility on highways led to many road closures between Colorado and Wyoming on Wednesday, and the Wyoming Highway Patrol said it responded to nearly 800 calls for service in a 12-hour period, telling motorists to stay off the roads.
In South Dakota, more than 100 vehicles were stranded on snow-covered roads in low-visibility conditions Wednesday night, the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office said.
The storm is expected to become a “bomb cyclonic” late Thursday through Friday, reaching pressure equivalent to a Category 3 hurricane as it moves toward the Great Lakes.
Coldest Christmas expected in Central Florida since 1983
The coldest Christmas in central Florida since 1983 is coming this weekend, according to CNN’s predictions.
Much of northern Florida is under a wind chill watch, while central Florida is under a frost and freezing cold watch, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).
Florida Power & Light, one of the largest energy providers in the state, told customers to prepare for winter weather conditions.
“Extreme temperatures have a direct impact on the amount of energy you use to heat your home. Avoid changing your thermostat more than 2 degrees at a time,” the energy company said in a tweet Thursday morning.
What you need to know about the polar collapse and the bomb cyclone
- This storm pattern is affecting almost every state. There is currently a winter, wind chill, frost, coastal or wind alert in 44 of the lower forty-eight states.
- The most widespread weather hazard over the next few days will be dangerously cold. Wind chill watches are in place for more than 25 states stretching from the Texas Gulf Coast to the US-Canada border. This Wednesday night, the wind chill could drop to below 21 degrees Celsius in some areas of Wyoming, a rare minimum in the United States.
- Denver is warning of “life-threatening” cold.
- A whopping 60 million Americans, or nearly 20% of the country’s population, will experience freezing temperatures with this arctic blast. This includes cities like Denver, Kansas City, St Louis, Minneapolis, and Chicago.
- Western Minnesota is facing dangerous blizzard conditions and a life-threatening wind chill this Thursday and Friday.
- The snow will begin to fall in Chicago around noon this Thursday and will continue until this Friday morning. Several inches of snow, combined with 50-120 mph wind gusts could result in Chicago’s first blizzard warning in more than four years.
- The arctic front will enter the Gulf of Mexico and sweep the east coast late this Friday, bringing cold to the south of the country. Houston will experience nearly two days below zero from Thursday night through Saturday afternoon. The normal high temperature this time of year in Houston is 17 degrees Celsius. The maximum temperature forecast for this Saturday in Atlanta is almost 4 degrees below zero, which would be the coldest on record for a Christmas Eve.
CNN’s Dave Hennen, Aya Elamroussi, Robert Shackelford, Mike Saenz and Michelle Watson contributed to this report.