World

US winter storm threatens to muddle Thanksgiving plans

MINNEAPOLIS: A day after bringing havoc to the Rocky Mountains, a powerful winter storm rolled across the US Midwest on Wednesday, threatening Thanksgiving plans for millions of people during one of the busiest travel weeks of the year.

The storm, which was blamed for one death and hundreds of cancelled flights, pushed east into South Dakota, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

It dropped close to a foot of snow in some areas even as the system weakened and headed toward New York and Pennsylvania. But the West was not free of heavy weather.

A "bomb cyclone" caused by a rapid drop in air pressure brought snow to the mountains and wind and rain along the California and Oregon coasts.

Drivers on Interstate 5 highway near the Oregon-California border spent 17 hours or more in stopped traffic as blizzard conditions whirled outside. Some slept in their vehicles.

"It's one of those things, you couldn't make it up if you tried," National Weather Service meteorologist Brent Hewett said of back-to-back storms forming around the holiday.

Mrs Christina Williams and her 13-year-old son, who live in Portland, Oregon, got stuck in the storm as they tried to drive to the San Francisco area for Thanksgiving.

Mrs Williams said she and other stranded drivers connected on Twitter using weather-related hashtags and began to communicate to find out what conditions were like in other parts of the backup.

"There were spinouts everywhere. There were trucks that were abandoned. And every time we stopped and started moving again, there were people who couldn't start moving again," she said.

"Every time we stopped I was like, 'Is this it? Are we going to be here overnight?'"

Snow and downed trees and power lines closed roads. Others were reduced to a single lane, transportation officials said.

On Tuesday, weather-related damage and delays were widespread.

LIMITED VISIBILITY

About 25cm of snow mixed with winds that limited visibility cancelled about 30 per cent of the 1,600 average daily flights at Denver's main airport.

Southwest Airlines cancelled about 200 flights.

In New York, the windy forecast could mean disappointment for fans of the larger-than-life balloons flown at Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Organisers prepared for the possibility of grounding the iconic balloon characters because of expected 65 to 80 kmh gusts.

The decision will be made on parade day. - AP

WORLD