Brutal chill means parts of US colder than Mars

2014-01-08 14:53
(Luke Sharrett, AFP)

(Luke Sharrett, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Chicago - A deadly chill had much of the United States and Canada in its wintry grip on Tuesday, as a record-breaking cold snap brought temperatures lower than on the surface of Mars.

It was so cold in Chicago that the polar bear at the Lincoln Park zoo - who admittedly had not built up the winter fat stores of her wild cousins - was brought inside to warm up.

And in Kentucky, an escaped inmate begged to be let back into prison so he could warm up after spending the night shivering in an abandoned house.

All of Canada and all the US states bar tropical Hawaii recorded temperatures below freezing on Tuesday, even usually sunny and warm Florida and California.

But the most dangerous cold - cold that can cause frostbite in a minute and death in a matter of hours - hit the Midwest, dragged down as the 'polar vortex' brought frigid air from the Arctic.

Schools, businesses and government offices were closed. Water mains and household pipes froze. Airplanes were grounded, trains were halted and roads and sidewalks became ice rinks.

The town of Embarrass, Minnesota, recorded the lowest temperature in the United States on Tuesday at a frigid -37°C.

Then there was the wind chill: a calculation that represents how much colder it feels when the blinding gusts hit you in the face.

That dipped as low as -52°C in Montana and was in the -40 to -50°C range in parts of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

That's cold enough to toss a cup of boiling water into the air and watch it turn into snow before it hits the ground.

The Mars Rover has been sending back daily temperature readings from its tour of the Red Planet ranging from -25 to -31°C.

"To be fair, though, Mars is still way colder," the Smithsonian Institute wrote in a blog post. "The Curiosity rover is driving around in a crater at, roughly, the equivalent latitude of Venezuela."

But then again, Mars is 78 million miles further away from the Sun.

State of emergency

For a more Earthly comparison, the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station recorded a temperature of -23°C and a wind chill factor of -35°C on Tuesday.

The brutal chill came as people in the Great Lakes region were still digging out from two massive snow storms which dumped more than two feet of snow.

More than 500 people spent Monday night stuck on a train that was stranded by snowdrifts on the line between Detroit and Chicago.

Commuter rail - and even Chicago's famed elevated trains - were also knocked out of service by the snow and frigid temperatures froze switches and signals.

Nearly 2 500 flights were cancelled in the United States on Tuesday and 3 400 were delayed. That brought the total of flights cancelled since the latest snowstorm hit on Thursday to more than 18 000.

Toronto's Pearson Airport temporarily halted ground operations early on Tuesday because of "equipment freezing" and out of concern for the safety of airport personnel, it said on its Twitter account.

Police reinforcements were called in to the airport to deal with rising tension among stranded travellers.

The governor of Illinois declared a state of emergency on Monday and called up the National Guard to help rescue stranded motorists as high winds whipped up blinding snow.

Guardsmen were also deployed in Indiana and New York, a Pentagon spokesperson told AFP.

Even hardy Canadians were complaining of the cold amid widespread power outages.

Temperatures as low as minus 50°C with a wind chill plunged the western Prairies region into a deep freeze.

The streets of Toronto, Montreal and the capital Ottawa were coated with black ice after unusually warm temperatures brought rain on Monday before the mercury plunged overnight.

Meteorologists predict the cold snap will ease as of Wednesday. Which for many won't come soon enough.

Read more on:    us  |  weather

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
2 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.