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US-Canada facing winter storm that can bring frostbite within minutes

Picture Courtesy: NPR

A powerful Arctic winter storm has placed more than 135 million people under weekend weather alerts ahead of the busiest travel days of the year. The Plunging temperatures wreaking havoc across the US and Canada can lead to frostbite on bare skin in only five to 10 minutes, experts are warning.

The alerts stretch from coast to coast and reach as far south as the US-Mexico border and Florida, the Sunshine State. The National Weather Service (NWS) said temperatures of -50F (-45C) and -70F were possible by the end of this week in some parts of the US.

Experts have warned that even in major metro areas, like the city of Des Moines, Iowa, frostbite will be a major danger. Frostbite is caused when blood flow is reduced, often to extremities like the nose and cheeks or fingers and toes. The lack of warm blood can lead to tissue freezing and rupturing, and in some cases, amputation.

The governor of New York state, Kathy Hochul, declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the storm. The governors of Kentucky, North Carolina, West Virginia, Georgia and Oklahoma have also declared states of emergency, while Wisconsin declared an "energy emergency”.

Florida is projected to see its coldest Christmas in 30 years. Snow and powerful winds are expected to cause damage and power outages in the Midwest and Canada. In anticipation of travel disruptions, major airlines including United, Delta and American have offered to waive fees for travellers who wish to reschedule their flights.

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