NEW YORK, Jan 31 (APP):A deadly cold snap, fueled by the polar vortex, is gripping a wide swath of the United States, with temperatures plunging far below zero and wind chill numbers as extraordinary as they are dangerous, according to media reports.
Chicago’s temperature tumbled to 21 below, a record for the date and closing in on the city’s all-time record of minus-27 set in 1985.
The wind chill dipped to an even more startling 51 degrees below zero.
The National Weather Service said the temperature reached minus-28 degrees in Minneapolis, poised to break a record dating back more than 100 years. The wind chill: minus-49. Norris Camp, Minnesota, almost made it there without allowing for wind, recording an actual air temperature of 48 degrees below zero.
Wind chill temperatures in dozens of towns across Minnesota and North Dakota plummeted to 60 below or less, the weather service said. Officials in Minnesota pulled snowplows off the roads in 11 southeastern counties, citing mechanical problems because of the extreme cold.
“One of the coldest arctic air mass intrusions in recent memory is surging south into the Upper Midwest before spreading across much of the eastern two-thirds of the country,” the weather service said, warning of “life-threatening wind chills, likely leading to widespread record lows and low maximum temperatures.”
Frostbite can set in within five minutes
in such temperatures, the weather service said.
In the East, blinding snow squalls on highways caused at least three significant pileups of cars and trucks, two in Pennsylvania and one in New York. Near Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, dozens of vehicles were involved in a pileup,
and numerous injuries were reported, according to the Reading Eagle.
A pileup on the New York State Thruway between Batavia and LeRoy caused multiple injuries, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle said.
At least eight deaths were linked to the weather, including a man struck and killed by a snowplow in the Chicago area, a young couple whose SUV struck another on a snowy road in northern Indiana and, in Milwaukee, a man found frozen to death in a garage.In Michigan, the body of a Detroit man was found in front of a neighbor’s home, and in suburban Ecorse another man was found outside without a hat or gloves. A University of Iowa student was found dead
Wednesday morning, and university officials believe the death was caused by the extreme weather.
Thousands of flights into and out of airports in the region were delayed or canceled, including more than 1,000 flights at Chicago airports alone.Amtrak, the train service, pulled the plug in Chicago, announcing the “extreme weather conditions and an abundance of caution” led to cancellation of all trains to and from the city on Wednesday. Short-distance services are also canceled on Thursday, Amtrak said.
Even the Postal Service took notice, announcing that because of concerns for the safety of its employees, mail won’t be delivered in parts of at least 10 states.
Homeless shelters and warming centers were abuzz across the region. In Chicago, officials added 500 shelter beds and tapped more than 100 religious leaders to make calls and checks on senior citizens. Five Chicago Transit Authority buses were dispatched to give homeless people a place to warm up who might not want to go to a shelter.
“Everyone of us has a role to check on somebody who is maybe a neighbour on the block who is elderly, infirm or needs extra help,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.