Photos: ‘Bomb cyclone’ causes mayhem for travelers trying to go home for the holidays

Holiday travelers are reflected in a window at an airport.
Holiday travelers are reflected in a window at Los Angeles International Airport.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Despite balmy weather in Los Angeles, dozens of flights were canceled out of Los Angeles International Airport on Friday as a “bomb cyclone” weather pattern tore through much of the United States.

Outbound planes to Seattle; Portland, Ore.; Vancouver; St. Louis; Cleveland; Indianapolis; Orlando, Fla.; and other cities were grounded while other flights were running with delays out of the airport.

An 11-year-old boy in a Santa hat embraces relatives at the airport.
Holiday traveler Michael Bisenieks, 11, center, embraces relatives as he arrives at Los Angeles airport.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Departures to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport are grounded because of snow or ice as are flights to Portland International Airport, while airports like Dallas Fort Worth International are spraying planes with “deicing fluid” to remove snow and ice.

The delays and cancellations come as a massive “bomb cyclone” is barreling across the country, setting records for coldest temperatures ever recorded and blanketing parts of the country in snow.

The weather event — which the National Weather Service called a “once in a generation type event” — will touch more than 100 million people in nearly every state, although Californians will largely be spared.

Canceled and delayed flights posted on a digital flat screen.
Canceled and delayed flights are posted at Los Angeles International Airport as winter weather hampers holiday travel across the country.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, meteorologists said that a “very warm weekend” is in order.

“For Southern California, we’re expecting high 70s and low 80s, starting Saturday into Christmas Day,” said Mike Wofford of the National Weather Service in Oxnard. “It looks like the warmest temperatures will be 82 or 83 in the Valley and close to 80 downtown.”

A woman wearing a green shirt and red antlers helps a holiday traveler.
Southwest ticket agent Joyce Walker, left, helps a holiday traveler at LAX.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles and the rest of the Golden State are missing the wintry weather blasting the rest of the country largely for two reasons, meteorologists said. First, the series of mountains known as the Continental Divide is blocking much of the cold air from reaching California. Second, a high-pressure ridge developing in the Pacific will warm the West Coast in the coming days.

The Continental Divide, which separates the west from the east along the spine of the Rocky Mountains, will act as a buffer for the state, Sirard said, protecting it from the deep freeze by ushering the Arctic air mass to the east.


“The Arctic air is very cold and dense, so the Rocky Mountains block that cold air from coming to our area,” he said. “With all the mountains around, with the right airflow aloft, it’ll block all that cold air.”

A man and woman pull a cart with luggage that a small child sits on.
Holiday travelers from Edmonton, Canada — 2-year-old Elle Nguyen and her parents, Annielyn and Danny — at Los Angeles International Airport. They said the temperature at home could dip to minus-40 degrees.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

It’s unlikely — but not impossible — that L.A. will set a new Christmas Day record for high temperature, he added. The current record is 85 degrees, but Woffard said this year “probably won’t get quite that warm.”

That’s a far cry from conditions to the east, where the rapidly deepening low-pressure system is bringing snow squalls, flash freezes and potentially deadly cold.

“This is really a very serious weather alert here, and it goes from Oklahoma all the way to Wyoming, and Wyoming to Maine, and it’s of real consequence,” President Biden said in an address Thursday morning. “I encourage everyone, everyone please heed the local warnings. ... This is serious stuff.”

Many vehicles fill the road around Los Angeles International Airport.
Holiday traffic winds around LAX.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Times staff writer Hayley Smith contributed to this report.