‘Polar vortex’ slams US with record cold weather

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014. Filed under: U.S. News

By Mira Oberman

Photos taken last January 3 at the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC by First Secretary and Consul Elmer G. Cato, which he posted on his Facebook Page. Meteorologists have predicted the lowest temperatures in two decades in some areas of the country. Icy roads and snow storms created travel chaos, with thousands of flights canceled or delayed that Cato and his wife experienced on Sunday while on the way to church, who both fell flat on their backs, according to the Filipino consul. A “polar vortex” dropped over a huge section of the United States on Monday, sending temperatures plunging across the Midwest as the East Coast braced for the bitter Arctic blast.

Photos taken last January 3 at the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC by First Secretary and Consul Elmer G. Cato, which he posted on his Facebook Page. Meteorologists have predicted the lowest temperatures in two decades in some areas of the country. Icy roads and snow storms created travel chaos, with thousands of flights canceled or delayed that Cato and his wife experienced on Sunday while on the way to church, who both fell flat on their backs, according to the Filipino consul. A “polar vortex” dropped over a huge section of the United States on Monday, sending temperatures plunging across the Midwest as the East Coast braced for the bitter Arctic blast.

CHICAGO  (AFP) – A “polar vortex” dropped over a huge section of the United States on Monday, sending temperatures plunging across the Midwest as the East Coast braced for the bitter Arctic blast.

Meteorologists predicted the lowest temperatures in two decades in some areas of the country, with the mercury at -35 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 37 Celsius) in Milwaukee. Icy roads and snow storms created travel chaos, with thousands of flights canceled or delayed.

The northeastern United States has endured heavy snow and deadly freezing conditions since the start of the year, and the extreme cold has claimed about a dozen lives nationwide.

“The coldest weather in years will be making its presence known from the Upper Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic region for the beginning of the work week,” the National Weather Service said.

Wind chill warnings were in effect from Montana as far south as Tennessee and Alabama, with temperatures feeling as cold as -50 degrees Fahrenheit, it said, describing the conditions as “life-threatening.”

On the East Coast, a brief lull in the deep freeze greeted commuters on Monday, but temperatures were expected to drop by 40 degrees overnight.

In Milwaukee, on the shores of Lake Michigan, officials warned residents to stay indoors and urged schools to shut down.

“Police are reaching out to homeless citizens in order to help them find the nearest shelter,” city spokeswoman Sarah DeRoo told AFP.

All schools were closed in Minnesota. In Cook County in Illinois, which includes Chicago, warming centers were opened for anyone suffering, including those whose home heating did not work.

“This winter storm will be one for the record books, and we want to make sure everyone stays safe and warm until it passes,” Illinois state governor Pat Quinn said.

Exposed skin could suffer frostbite in as little as five minutes in such conditions, experts warn.

More than 3,000 flights within, into or out of the United States were canceled on Monday, according to industry tracker FlightAware, including nearly 800 at Chicago O’Hare International, one of the country’s busiest airports.

Hundreds more flights were canceled or delayed from other major hubs like New York’s John F. Kennedy or Newark International.

A Delta passenger airplane skidded into a snow bank at JFK on Sunday. Nobody was hurt, but the plane had to be towed to its gate.

In Wisconsin, Sunday’s National Football League playoff showdown between the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers at the open-air Lambeau Field was one of the coldest NFL games in history.

The Packers helped the more than 70,000 football fans at the stadium battle the freeze by handing out free coffee, hot chocolate and hand warmers. Green Bay lost to San Francisco, 23-20.

In Indianapolis, Mayor Greg Ballard urged residents to simply stay indoors.

Freezing rain is forecast to hit the south and east, while the New England region and New York could see more snow.

The southern city of Atlanta will likely experience record low temperatures, while in normally balmy Florida, the National Weather Service issued a hard freeze warning in the northern part of the state.

The extreme cold disrupted flights and classes in Canada as well. In the Atlantic island province of Newfoundland, more than 30,000 people were without power. Nationwide, officials warned of “treacherous” travel conditions.

Meteorologists said that a warming trend would mercifully begin at mid-week.

Deaths blamed on the frigid weather include a worker crushed by a 100-foot (30-meter) pile of salt being prepared to treat roads in the Philadelphia area on Friday, and a 71-year-old woman suffering from Alzheimer’s disease who froze to death after getting lost in New York state, officials said.

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