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Powerful winter storm expected to bring "crippling impacts" as hundreds of flights are canceled

Millions to hit the road, skies this holiday weekend
Travel expected to hit peak volume as millions hit roads, skies this holiday weekend 03:11

A powerful winter storm is expected to bring bitter cold, blizzard-like conditions and "potentially crippling impacts" to multiple states as millions of Americans are trying to get home for the holidays.

About 3 million people are booked on about 47,000 flights Thursday, making it one of the busiest travel days of the year. More than 1,200 flights are already canceled nationally, most of them at Denver and Chicago airports. And as the day goes on, cancellations are expected at airports coast to coast.

The National Weather Service says an arctic front will continue to bring widespread and dangerous cold — as well as blinding snow squalls and flash freezing — over the central and eastern U.S. through the rest of the week.

In the Department of Transportation's Operations Center, Secretary Pete Buttigieg and his team are monitoring the potential impacts as some of the nation's busiest airports sit in the path of blizzard-like conditions.

"This is going to affect millions and millions of travelers," Buttigieg told CBS News. "We're also doing what we can to get the word out about options that travelers have to get ahead of the storm or maybe wait it out and not travel until its impacts are behind us."

Some 113 million people are expected to travel at least 50 miles this holiday, according to AAA, as snow and frigid temperatures push across the country.

In Wyoming, troopers battled -18 degree temperatures and zero visibility while responding to more than 100 crashes.

In Georgia, people are bracing for a rare hard freeze, while Arkansas plans to treat roads ahead of a possible wintry mix in the Deep South.

"The most important thing is to be safe, and that might mean taking a little time or delaying a plan," said Buttigieg.

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