A brutal winter storm that trapped drivers on icy roads, blacked out hundreds of thousands of homes, grounded airplanes and closed schools across much of the country was poised to slam California Thursday.
“We are in for a VERY busy week!” the National Weather Service bureau in San Diego tweeted. “We have issued warnings for damaging winds, heavy mountain snow, highly hazardous boating conditions and the list goes on.”
For the first time since 1989, the weather service issued a blizzard warning for Southern California mountains that runs through Saturday. Some coastal areas could see 10-foot (3-meter) waves — and a few at up to 14 feet (4.3 meters) — through Thursday, forecasters said.
“Nearly the entire population of CA will be able to see snow from some vantage point later this week if they look in the right direction (i.e., toward the highest hills in vicinity),” UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain tweeted Wednesday.
The storm, one in a series that was expected to pummel the country through the week, sowed chaos coast to coast. At one point Wednesday, more than 65 million people in more than two dozen states were under weather alerts.
The wintry mix hit hard in the northern U.S., closing schools, offices, even shutting down the Minnesota Legislature. About 90 churches in western Michigan canceled Ash Wednesday services, WZZM-TV reported.
In Wyoming, the state Transportation Department posted on social media that roads across much of the southern part of the state were impassable.
Rescuers tried to reach people stranded in vehicles but high winds and drifting snow created a “near-impossible situation” for them, said Sgt. Jeremy Beck of the Wyoming Highway Patrol.
“They know their locations, it’s just hard for them to get them,” he said.
In the Pacific Northwest, high winds and heavy snow in the Cascade Mountains prevented search teams from reaching the bodies of three climbers killed in an avalanche on Washington’s Colchuck Peak over the weekend.
Unexpectedly heavy snow during rush hour sent dozens of cars spinning out in Portland, Oregon, and caused hours-long traffic jams. The regional bus service offered free rides to warming shelters for homeless individuals.