Cars, planes stranded as Bomb Cyclone hits US Thanksgiving travel

Two winter storms blasted the United States stranding motorists and causing thousands of flight delays as Americans jammed highways and airports to visit family and friends for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Rapid drop in temperature

Scores of vehicles got stuck on Interstate 5 after a "bomb cyclone" - a supercharged winter storm caused by a rapid drop in atmospheric pressure - dumped up to four feet (1.2 meters) of snow in mountainous areas of the Pacific Northwest.

"We've been white-knuckling it for the last four hours and sliding around the road," said Lisa Chadwick after she stopped in Bend, Oregon, driving north from San Francisco. She had snow chains for her two-wheel-drive car but did not know how to put them on.
 

(Photograph:Reuters)

'Busiest travel days of the year'

The storms hit on one of the busiest travel days of the year, with a near-record 55 million Americans set to journey at least 50 miles (80 km) for Thanksgiving on Thursday, according to the American Automobile Association.

After parts of Colorado got up to 30 inches (75 cm) of snow on Tuesday, Minneapolis was expected to get as much as 12 inches as the system slid east, said Brian Hurley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in College Park, Maryland.

(Photograph:Reuters)

'Lots of near-accidents'

On the West Coast, heavy rain threatened flash floods from San Diego to Los Angeles.

Los Angeles International Airport told domestic passengers to arrive three hours early as it expected 238,000 passengers and 113,000 vehicles on Wednesday.

"There has been definitely lots of honking, lots of near-accidents that I've seen, for sure," Daniel Julien, a 24-year-old paralegal from Pasadena, said after making it to the airport.
 

(Photograph:Reuters)

Evacuation warnings

A silver lining was that rain doused the Cave Fire in Santa Barbara County, which charred 7 square miles (1,810 hectares) of brush and woodlands. But it brought evacuation warnings to thousands of residents in Santa Barbara suburbs for possible mudslides on fire-charred hills.
 

(Photograph:Reuters)

4,083 flights delayed, 148 cancelled

Across the country, 4,083 flights were delayed, and 148 were cancelled into or out of the United States by 6.30 pm ET, with Chicago's O'Hare International Airport tallying the most, according to FlightAware.com.

(Photograph:Reuters)