Just before Christmas, a combination of ice, snow and winds is paralyzing much of the U.S.
I have rarely seen my fellow Chicagoans fuss much over a snowstorm. In this city, anything less than six inches is a mere dusting, schools almost never close because of bad weather, and children fly down sledding hills along Lake Michigan in freezing cold and wind.
But this week, the storm that is churning across the country is testing the city’s mettle. For days, I’ve heard about employees making plans to work from home instead of in the Loop, preschools and museums shutting down and out-of-town relatives deciding they won’t visit for Christmas after all.
It seems that the dose of caution is warranted: This storm is a double whammy. It has already brought snow, bone-chilling temperatures and dangerous ice and wind across the Mountain West, Midwest and South, and it is bearing down on the East Coast. And the timing is brutal, snarling flights and road trips right at the holidays.
Meteorologists have predicted highly unusual conditions. This morning, most of the eastern half of the U.S. will be under a mass of Arctic air with even colder wind chills. If you live there and the cold hasn’t arrived yet, it will be knocking on your door shortly, said my colleague Judson Jones, a meteorologist. More than 150 million people have been or are under wind chill warnings or advisories stretching from the U.S.-Canada border to the Gulf of Mexico.
“This type of Arctic outbreak only happens every few years,” Judson said. “Even the South could see wind chills near or below zero.”
Today’s newsletter is a guide to navigating a winter storm that is bringing a lot of disruption — though it doesn’t mean the holidays have to be miserable.
Plan for the storm
It’s not too late to prepare for the storm. At home, take a few precautions. Open kitchen and bathroom cabinets under sinks and leave faucets on a slow drip overnight, to guard against frozen pipes. Secure items outside your home, like patio furniture that could tumble around during high winds.
If you’re driving, try to avoid leaving during busy times of day. And keep a few items in your vehicle that could be lifesaving, like a first-aid kit, an ice scraper, snacks, water, jumper cables, extra hats and gloves and hand warmers. I learned to drive on a beat-up Jeep Wrangler that could handle anything, even my winter commute to high school on rural roads in Wisconsin. You may not have four-wheel drive, but the same rules for navigating a winter storm apply: Fill up your gas tank, drive slowly, and avoid jerky, uncontrolled movements with the wheel once you’re en route.
If you’re headed to an airport today, brace for a mess. Travel experts recommend calling airlines’ international hotlines for customer service, which could be less jammed than the U.S. numbers. If your flight is canceled because of weather, you’re entitled to a refund from the airline. Already, thousands of flights were delayed or canceled this week, some preemptively for today. (My colleague Maria Cramer has more tips for what to do if the storm disrupted your travel.)
If plans change
So your carefully planned trip for Christmas was swept away in the blizzard. Now what?
I called Keith Meacham, a shopkeeper, hostess and all-around expert on making home comfortable and cozy. Keith lives with her family in Nashville, where her store, Reed Smythe & Company, was a frenzy of last-minute shoppers this week as Tennessee braced for bitter cold.
Keith had tips on how to prepare for an impromptu Christmas at home. She suggested stocking the fridge with carrots, mushrooms and a few pounds of beef stew meat, so that a big pot of boeuf bourguignon could be produced for a soothing supper in a pinch.
Then, try to make the best of it. Put down a tablecloth, even on a simple kitchen table. Add a bunch of mismatched candles, whatever you have around. Head into the woods — or your corner bodega — for some flowers or branches to make the spread look festive. After dinner, play Scrabble.
“Covid taught us all that you can still be celebratory and cozied up only with your family,” she said. “There’s a simplification of life that can still be joyful and beautiful.”
More storm news
See whether you’ll have a white Christmas.
What is the polar vortex? (And answers to other cold-weather questions.)
Ride out the storm with these tools picked by Wirecutter, The Times’s product recommendation site.
THE LATEST NEWS
Jan 6. Investigation
The panel navigated a “tumultuous” start but produced the most important congressional investigation in generations.
Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide and Jan. 6 committee star witness, said a Trump-aligned lawyer had tried to influence her testimony.
The Senate passed a $1.7 trillion spending bill, sending it to the House ahead of a midnight deadline tonight to avert a government shutdown.
The spending bill includes a bipartisan overhaul of how Congress counts electoral votes for president — a bid to prevent another Jan. 6.
The bill also contains more than $15 billion for schools, museums and other projects in lawmakers’ home states.
An audit of Trump’s taxes revealed that the I.R.S. lacks the resources to go after rich taxpayers.
George Santos, a Republican from New York, said he would address questions about his background next week.
War in Ukraine
The U.S. has rebuffed requests by Volodymyr Zelensky for battle tanks and fighter jets.
Zelensky visited Poland after his trip to the U.S. to cement support from his allies.
Congress passed a bill expanding the government’s power to prosecute international war crimes after Zelensky’s visit.
Other Big Stories
Sam Bankman-Fried was released on a $250 million bond and ordered to remain at his parents’ California home while he awaited trial.
The pace of U.S. population growth rose this year but remains near historic lows, according to new Census Bureau data.
The Juilliard School placed a professor on leave after a magazine article said he had sexually harassed students.
Target recalled more than 200,000 weighted children’s blankets after two girls died.
N.Y.U.’s nonprofit hospital pressured doctors to give preferential treatment to donors and their families, a Times investigation found.
The Chinese government is struggling to explain its Covid policy shift.
Zelensky reminds Americans of the values — freedom, equality and anti-authoritarianism — we used to admire in ourselves, David Brooks writes.
Don’t forget House Republicans enabled Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, Representative Adam Schiff says.
The pandemic has supercharged America’s candy addiction, Megan Stack writes.
Mystery: Dr. Marvin Moy was facing federal prosecution and a bitter divorce. Then he disappeared at sea.
Boom times for Santa: Bookings, and wages, are way up this season.
Modern Love: A doorbell’s ring brought hope to a grieving family.
Advice from Wirecutter: Tips for shopping more sustainably.
Lives Lived: The timpanist Elayne Jones joined the San Francisco Symphony in 1972 as probably the first Black principal player in a major American orchestra. She mounted a legal battle when she was denied tenure. She died at 94.
SPORTS NEWS FROM THE ATHLETIC
Suspension reduced: Trevor Bauer, a pitcher who was suspended after a sexual assault investigation, was reinstated to Major League Baseball after an arbitrator reduced his penalty.
Streaming: YouTube reached a deal with the N.F.L. to air its Sunday Ticket subscription service next season.
Benched: The Jets lost 19-3 to the Jaguars last night. New York’s third-string quarterback replaced starter Zach Wilson during the game.
Spending spree: San Francisco made a risk-averse move when it let Carlos Correa get away. The Giants could learn from Steve Cohen, baseball’s wealthiest owner, The Athletic writes.
ARTS AND IDEAS
Christmas at Dollywood
Dolly Parton’s employees start preparing for Christmas in the summer. Starting in June or July, they string more than six million lights across her namesake theme park in the Smoky Mountains. After Halloween, they add more than 650 evergreen trees.
Dollywood is transformed each year into a Christmas attraction to rival Radio City’s Rockettes — with fewer kicklines, but far more fiddles. “Christmas in the Smokies,” its signature show, has been running since 1990, with a live orchestra and Appalachian storytelling, a flatfoot dancer and a fiddler. In more than a dozen interviews at the park, The Times’s Melena Ryzik kept hearing one mantra from the boss: “Dolly always says, ‘If someone doesn’t have a smile, give them yours.’”
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
The pangram from yesterday’s Spelling Bee was polygamy. Here is today’s puzzle.
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Go round and round (four letters).
And here’s today’s Wordle.
Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow.
P.S. Georgetown University hired Adnan Syed, the subject of the podcast “Serial” who was recently freed from prison.
Here’s today’s front page.
“The Daily” is a conversation with our restaurant critic.
Matthew Cullen, Lauren Hard, Lauren Jackson, Ian Prasad Philbrick and Tom Wright-Piersanti contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at email@example.com.