A winter storm “bomb cyclone” is expected to hit the midwest on Wednesday and Thursday with hurricane-strength winds and heavy snow. The length of the storm is likely to spread the length of Texas to Minnesota, affecting up to 70 million people as it moves across the country.
The National Weather Service (NWS) is predicting a storm with severe blizzard conditions and winds from 50 to 70 miles per hour. A blizzard warning is in effect for parts of North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, and Wyoming. Blizzard conditions could spread into the Northern Plains region by Thursday morning.
More than six inches of heavy, wet snow is expected in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska and the Dakotas. Some locations could receive up to two feet of snow. More than 45 million people live in areas under high wind threat. More than 15 million are affected by a flood threat and about 10 million are under winter storm threats, according to CNN.
The NWS in Rapid City, South Dakota advised residents that “travel will be very difficult to impossible” because of intense snow.
Travelers intending on passing through the midwest this week could find their plans canceled. According to FlightAware, more than 1,400 Wednesday flights have already been canceled. Southwest, Frontier and United have all canceled flights, Denver Airport wrote on Twitter. Passengers should contact their airline for up-to-date information about their travel plans.
In the southern half of the country, hurricane-strength winds are expected through Thursday morning. Citizens in Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma are predicted to see winds from 50 to 70 miles per hour. At its most intense, gusts could blow up to 100 miles per hour, the strength of a Category 2 hurricane.
The NWS has issued flood watches along the Missouri River throughout the Midwest and Great Plains through midday Thursday.
“It’s a powerful storm system that when it starts to come together, strengthens very quickly,” Accuweather meteorologist Matt Rinde told TIME. “With severe weather on the southern side, blizzard conditions on the northern side, the concern for flooding, and then, the winds that are outside of the thunderstorms. It’s an impressive event from top to bottom.”
Last year’s bomb cyclone slammed the East Coast from Florida to the Northeast, dropping more than a foot of snow in some locations.