Millions in the US are facing record-breaking cold temperatures as cold air from the Arctic blasts across vast swathes of the country and reaches as far as the Gulf Coast. According to reports, this is the coldest Christmas season in 40 years.
Storms can form when a mass of low-pressure air meets a high-pressure mass. The air flows from high pressure to low, creating winds. What defines a bomb cyclone is how rapidly the pressure drops in the low-pressure mass by at least 24 millibars in 24 hours. This quickly increases the pressure difference, or gradient, between the two air masses, making the winds stronger. This process of rapid intensification has a name: bombogenesis.
John Moore, a meteorologist and spokesperson for the National Weather Service, said conditions for a bomb cyclone had been met over the Great Lakes, where frigid Arctic air from the meandering polar vortex met very warm air to the east.
Daylight Sunday revealed cars nearly covered by 6-foot snowdrifts and thousands of houses, some adorned in unlit holiday displays, dark from a lack of power. With snow swirling down untouched and impassable streets, forecasters warned that an additional 1 to 2 feet of snow was possible in some areas through early Monday morning amid wind gusts of 40 mph. As the area where the two air masses meet, called the Arctic front, moves northward and eastward, conditions for bombogenesis should continue moving as well, Moore said.
Freezing conditions and day-old power outages had Buffalonians scrambling to get out of their homes to anywhere that had heat. Anything left uncovered like the nose, the chin, the ears, the fingers or the toes can develop a frostbite a condition where a person’s skin freezes. Even skin covered by gloves, a hat and other warm layers are vulnerable. Numbness, tingling or burning sensations could be serious and experts advise seeking help immediately in such a case.
Those with underlying health conditions like asthma and other respiratory diseases can feel tightening of the airways, wheezing and coughing.Air pressure dropped to at least 962 millibars, while elsewhere it was as high as 1,047 millibars. “It’s a really sharp gradient,” an expert said.
Storm-related deaths were reported in recent days all over the country: seven in Erie County, New York; 10 dead in multiple crashes in Ohio, including a pileup involving some 50 vehicles, a man whose sport utility vehicle ran into a snowplow and an electrocuted utility worker; four motorists killed in separate crashes in Missouri and Kansas.