This Bomb Cyclone Is Plastering The West Coast And Making It Tough To Travel
You may not have planned to stay home for the holidays—but our country’s current weather situation might keep you there. Two powerful storms have been forming on both coasts, which means that traveling for Thanksgiving may be a little rough (or even impossible) this year. As the severe weather culminates in blizzard conditions and hurricane-force winds, weather forecasters are warning people to exercise caution and brace for major delays. So instead of trying to venture too far out into the snow, it may be best to cancel everything and cozy up with some Netflix and hot cocoa. Or, better yet, some Netflix and coquito.
Those on the West Coast are at the mercy of a “bomb cyclone,” a rare weather phenomenon that has already happened several times this year.
These storms form when the air near the surface of the earth rises rapidly through the atmosphere, causing an abrupt drop in barometric pressure. As the air continues to rise, currents are generated at the base of the storm, sucking wind into its spin and causing the pressure to keep dropping. The lower the pressure, the stronger the storm. Really, a bomb cyclone is just a storm that intensifies at an alarmingly high rate, and the results can be catastrophic. Last month, a storm of this nature descended on the Northeast and knocked out power for hundreds of thousands of homes.
This particular bomb cyclone is expected to plaster California—from Crescent City to Bakersfield—with several feet of snow. If that song “White Christmas” is any indication, white Christmases don’t usually happen in Beverly Hills, so this forecast is obviously unusual. Many meteorologists have also described it as unprecedented. Some experts say that that’s the true danger of bomb cyclones: they can (and often do) sneak up on us.
Bomb cyclones are kind of like cold-weather hurricanes, with strong winds, heavy precipitation, and eye-like features at their center. Definitely not the kind of weather you want to fly through.
“Fundamentally, the impacts of a bomb cyclone are not necessarily different from other strong storm systems, except that the fast strengthening is usually a signature of a very powerful storm system,” said Daniel Swain, Climate Scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles.
So what exactly should people in the West expect from this cyclone? The National Weather Service office in Las Vegas has a storm warning posted from 5 p.m. PT on Tuesday until 4 a.m. PT on Friday and some places in Colorado reported as much as 30 inches in just 20 hours. As the storm develops, forecasters predict that at least a foot of snow can be expected across the plains by Thursday. This means that the central part of the country will probably experience the most flight delays, as airports in Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul have already experienced widespread cancellations (as of Tuesday morning, nearly 500 flights out of Denver International Airport have been canceled).
As for the East Coast? There is no “bomb cyclone” predicted. Instead, wet and windy weather is in the forecast, paired with heavy snow. It doesn’t take long to realize that plunging temperatures and abundant showers are a recipe for ice, ice, baby – but so far, there are no severe weather warnings encouraging people to prepare for icy conditions. In fact, it’s expected that rain will clear the coast by noon on Thanksgiving, though wind gusts might grow to more than 30 or 40 mph in some places. All the more reason to sip a warm beverage and cuddle up on the couch.
If you’re bummed about the weather ruining your holiday plans, look at it this way: you’re bearing witness to some serious meteorological history.
Well, maybe—that’s yet to be confirmed. Still, isn’t it cool that California may experience its lowest-ever air pressure reading? No? What about the fact that temperatures throughout the state will be 15 degrees lower than the average? Not doing it for ya? Okay. Perhaps the real silver lining to all this climate chaos is that it’s forcing some of us to stay put and relax. The holidays can be a stressful time, and sometimes we just need a powerful winter tempest to make us kick back and chill. Regardless of what your plans are, stay safe out there!