Shelters for the homeless were overflowing due to the severe cold
described by some meteorologists as the "polar vortex" and dubbed by
media as the "polar pig."
Temperatures were 20 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit (11 to 22 degrees
Celsius) below average in parts of Montana, North and South Dakota,
Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and Nebraska, according to the
National Weather Service.
Babbitt, Minnesota, was the coldest place in the United States on
Monday at minus 37F (minus 38.3C), according to the National Weather
Service. It was chillier even than Mars in recent days, where NASA's
rover Curiosity showed a high temperature on January 2 of minus
32.8F (minus 36C).
The U.S. cold snap outdid freezing weather in Almaty, Kazakhstan,
where it was minus 8F (minus 22C), Mongolia at minus 10F (minus 23C)
and Irkutsk, in Siberia, at minus 27F (minus 33C).
More than half the flights at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport
were canceled as fuel supplies froze, leaving crews unable to fill
aircraft tanks. The afternoon temperature in Chicago was minus 12F
The polar vortex, the coldest air in the Northern hemisphere that
hovers over the polar region in winter but can be pushed south, was
moving toward the East Coast where temperatures were expected to
fall into Tuesday. The cold airmass originated over Siberia, the
National Weather Service said on its website.
The coldest temperatures in years and gusty winds were expected as
far south as Brownsville, Texas, and central Florida, the National
Weather Service said.
The Northeast experienced unseasonably mild weather and rain, but
authorities warned travelers to expect icy roads and sidewalks on
Tuesday. Amtrak planned to operate its trains on a reduced schedule
throughout the Northeast corridor on Tuesday, a spokesman said.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency,
announcing that parts of the New York State Thruway in Western New
York would be closed due to extreme winter weather conditions there.
At least four weather-related deaths were reported, including a
48-year-old Chicago man who had a heart attack while shoveling snow
on Sunday and an elderly woman who was found outside her
Indianapolis home early Monday.
In oil fields from Texas to North Dakota and Canada, the severe cold
threatened to disrupt traffic, strand wells and interrupt drilling
and fracking operations.
It also disrupted grain and livestock shipments throughout the farm
belt, curbed meat production at several packing plants and
threatened to damage the dormant wheat crop.
In Cleveland, Ohio, where the temperature was minus 3F (minus 19C)
and was forecast to drop to minus 6F (minus 21C) overnight, homeless
shelters were operating at full capacity. Shelter operators had
begun to open overflow facilities to accommodate more than 2,000
people who had come seeking warmth.
"There are also going to be people that won't go into the shelters,"
said Brian Davis, an organizer with Northeast Ohio Coalition for the
Homeless. Frostbite can set in within minutes in such low
temperatures, according to experts.
The National Weather Service issued warnings for life-threatening
wind chills in western and central North Dakota, with temperatures
as low as minus 60F (minus 51C).
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Some 4,000 flights were canceled and 7,500 delayed, according to
FlightAware.com, which tracks airline activity.
Many airlines could not allow their ground crews to remain outdoors
for more than 15 minutes at a time. There were hundreds of
cancellations by airlines including United, Southwest, and American.
"The fuel and glycol supplies are frozen at (Chicago O'Hare) and
other airports in the Midwest and Northeast," said Andrea Huguely, a
spokeswoman for American Airlines Group. "We are unable to pump fuel
and or de-ice."
After five days of scrambling to catch up from storm delays, JetBlue
said it would halt operations at three airports in the New York area
and Boston Logan International Airport from 5 p.m. EST (2200 GMT)
Monday until 10 a.m. EST (1500 GMT) on Tuesday to give crews time to
The bitter cold combined with blowing snow was complicating rail
traffic as well. Union Pacific, one of the largest railroads and a
chief mover of grains, chemicals, coal and automotive parts, warned
customers on Monday that the weather was causing delays up to 48
hours across Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin.
Following last week's storm that dumped up to 2 feet of snow on
parts of New England, some shoppers opted for the comforts of home
rather than venturing out.
Many people did not have the luxury of staying home.
In the western Chicago suburb of Geneva, Beth Anderson, 38, was
shoveling the remains of Sunday's snow from her driveway before
sunrise on Monday while warming up her pickup truck for the short
drive to her job at a mall.
"I just wish I could get the day off too but it would take more than
a bit of weather to close down the mall where I work," she said.
(Additional reporting by Marina Lopes, Phil Wahba and Barbara
Goldberg in New York; Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, North
Carolina; Nivedita Bhattacharjee in Chicago; Kay Henderson in Des
Moines, Iowa; Heide Brandes in Oklahoma; Carey Gillam in Kansas
City; Jana J. Pruet in Dallas; Karen Jacobs in Atlanta; and Sharon
Bernstein in Sacramento, California; writing by Scott Malone and
Barbara Goldberg; editing by Grant McCool and Lisa Shumaker)
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