US 'polar vortex' creates unbearable cold

2014-01-07 08:32
Larry Thomas snow blows several inches of snow from a sidewalk as the area deals with record breaking freezing weather. (Joshua Lott, AFP)

Larry Thomas snow blows several inches of snow from a sidewalk as the area deals with record breaking freezing weather. (Joshua Lott, AFP)

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

Minneapolis - The coldest, most dangerous blast of polar air in decades gripped the US Midwest and pushed toward the east and south and eastern Canada on Monday, closing schools and day care centres, grounding flights and forcing people to pull their hoods and scarves tight to protect exposed skin from nearly instant frostbite.

Many across the nation's midsection went into virtual hibernation, while others dared to venture out in temperatures that plunged well below -18°C.

"I'm going to try to make it two blocks without turning into crying man", said Brooks Grace, who was bundling up to do some banking and shopping in downtown Minneapolis, where temperatures reached -31°C, with wind chills of -45°C. "It's not cold, it's painful."

The mercury also dropped into negative territory in Milwaukee, St Louis and Chicago, which set a record for the date at -27°C. Wind chills across the region were below 40°C and colder. Records also fell in Oklahoma, Texas and Indiana.

Forecasters said some 187 million people in all could feel the effects of the "polar vortex" by the time it spread across the country on Monday night and on Tuesday.

'Wreckers'

Record lows were possible in the East and South, with highs in the single digits of -13°C expected on Tuesday in Georgia and Alabama. Wind chills were expected to reach -2°C in Atlanta and -24°C in Baltimore.

From the Dakotas to Maryland, schools and day care centres shut down.

For a big swath of the Midwest, the bone-chilling cold moved in behind another winter wallop: more than 30cm of snow and high winds that made travelling treacherous.

Several deaths were blamed on the snow, ice and cold since Saturday, including the death of a 1-year-old boy who was in a car that went out of control and collided with a snowplough on Monday in Missouri.

It took authorities using 10 ton military vehicles known as "wreckers" until early on Monday to clear all the chain-reaction accidents caused when several vehicles jack-knifed along snowy interstates in southern Illinois. The crash stranded about 375 vehicles, but there were no fatalities or injuries, largely because motorists either stayed with their cars or were rescued and taken to nearby warming centres if they were low on gas or didn't have enough coats or blankets, said Jonathon Monken, director of the Illinois emergency management agency. Others got stuck in the snowdrifts, including the Southern Illinois men's basketball team, which had to spend the night sleeping in a church.

Cancelled flights

In the eastern United States, temperatures ranged in the single digits to the low teens on Monday which helped melt piles of snow from a storm last week, raising the risk that roads would freeze over as the cold air moved in Monday night, said Bob Oravec from the weather prediction centre in College Park, Maryland.

The snap was set to be dramatic; Springfield, Massachusetts, enjoyed 13°C on Monday morning but faced an overnight low -14°C.

More than 3 700 flights were cancelled by late Monday afternoon, following a weekend of travel disruption across the US. Airline officials said de-icing fluid was freezing, fuel was pumping sluggishly, and ramp workers were having difficulty loading and unloading luggage.

JetBlue Airways stopped all scheduled flights to and from New York and Boston on Monday. Southwest had to ground to a halt in Chicago earlier in the day, but by the evening, flights resumed in "a trickle", a spokesperson said.

- Are you there? Send us your stories and photos.

- AP
Read more on:    us  |  weather
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

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
10 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24

 
/News

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Save up to 40% on outdoor accessories!

Tents, sleeping, day packs and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Month End Madness Sale!

Save up to 60% on across a wide range of goods from books to electronics, DVDs and many more. Sale end 31 January 2015. Shop now!

Valentine’s Day gifts – 14 Feb!

Gifts to spoil him and her. While stocks last. Shop now!

30% off fragrances

Get 30% off fragrances for him and her. While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off All Textbooks

Save up to 30% off an extensive range of prescribed textbooks for all major universities and FET colleges. Shop Now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Something is blocking the flow of things today and it is easy to become frustrated and pessimistic. The problem is that your mind...read more

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.