At least nine deaths have been reported across the country
connected with the polar air mass that swept over North America
during the past few days. Authorities have put about half of the
United States under a wind chill warning or cold weather advisory.
Temperatures were expected to be 25 degrees to 35 degrees Fahrenheit
(14 to 19 degrees Celsius) below normal from the Midwest to the
Southeast, the National Weather Service said.
PJM Interconnection, the agency that oversees the electric grid
supplying the mid-Atlantic and parts of the Midwest, said
electricity suppliers were struggling to keep up with surging demand
as the cold forced some power plants to shut.
"This particular cold is far-reaching, and most of our neighbors are
experiencing the extreme conditions we are," said Michael Kormos,
executive vice president for operations at PJM Interconnection.
Oil refiners were also hit, with Marathon Petroleum Corp and Exxon
Mobil Corp both experiencing cold-related outages.
In Oklahoma, a depleted supply of propane due to extreme weather led
Governor Mary Fallin to declare a state of emergency, waiving
licensing requirements for out-of-state transportation companies to
allow them to bring in propane.
Homeless shelters and public buildings took in people who were
Daniel Dashner, a 33-year-old homeless man who typically sleeps
under a bridge on Milwaukee's south side, said he opted to seek a
spot at a shelter on Monday night.
"Usually if I have four or five blankets, I can stay pretty warm,
but when that wind is blowing, I don't care how many blankets I
have, the wind blows right through me," he said, as temperatures
dropped to minus 6 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 21 degrees Celsius).
The extreme cold won't last much longer, according to
AccuWeather.com. The frigid air and "polar vortex" that affected
about 240 million people in the United States and southern Canada
will depart during the second half of this week, and a far-reaching
January thaw will begin, according to AccuWeather.com.
COLD'S BROAD REACH
Major U.S. cities were in the grip of temperatures well below
freezing, with Chicago seeing 2 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 17 C),
Detroit 0 F (minus 18 C), Pittsburgh 5 F (minus 15 C), Washington 19
(minus 7 C) and Boston 15 F (minus 9 C).
New York's Central Park recorded the lowest temperature for the
date, 4 Fahrenheit (minus 16 C), rising to 9 F (minus 13 C) on
Tuesday afternoon with wind chills making it feel much colder,
At New York's Bowery Mission homeless shelter, the 80-bed dormitory
was full on Monday night and 179 other people slept in the chapel
and cafeteria, officials said.
Schools in Minneapolis and Chicago were closed for a second day on
Tuesday, although Chicago plans to reopen schools on Wednesday.
Cleveland remained below freezing after temperatures fell to minus
11 F (minus 24 C) on Monday, breaking a 130-year-old record.
Impassable snow and ice halted three Chicago-bound Amtrak trains on
Monday, stranding more than 500 passengers overnight in northwestern
In the normally mild south, Atlanta, Georgia, recorded its coldest weather on
this date in 44 years, as the temperature dropped to 6 degrees
Fahrenheit (minus 14 degrees Celsius), while temperatures in
northern Florida also briefly dropped below freezing, though the
state's citrus crop was unharmed, according to a major growers'
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Among the deaths reported was a 51-year-old homeless man in
Columbus, Georgia, whose body was found in an empty lot after
spending the night outdoors.
Two men died in Westerport,
Massachusetts, while duck hunting on Tuesday when their boat
capsized, dropping them into a frigid river, officials said. A third
man was rescued.
A large avalanche in backcountry outside the Colorado ski resort
area of Vail killed one person on Tuesday and caught up three others
who survived and were being rescued, officials said. Avalanche
danger in the area was rated as "considerable" due to high winds and
recent heavy snows, said Spencer Logan, forecaster with the Colorado
Avalanche Information Center.
Four cold and storm-related deaths were reported around Chicago and
an elderly woman was found dead outside her Indianapolis home early
The cold snap could cost the U.S. economy up to $5 billion, when
lost productivity and lost retail sales are accounted for, estimated
Evan Gold, senior vice president at Planalytics, which tracks
weather for businesses. He said about 200 million people in major
cities might face "bill shock" for heating.
The deep freeze disrupted commutes on Tuesday, with icy or closed
roads and flight delays. Some 2,380 U.S. flights were canceled and
2,912 delayed, according to FlightAware.com, which tracks airline
activity. Airlines scrambled to catch up a day after the cold froze
fuel supplies, leading to flight cancellations, many at Chicago
O'Hare International Airport.
Hardest hit were travelers who had booked trips on JetBlue Airways
Corp, which on Monday halted its flights at New York's three major
airports and Boston Logan International Airport overnight. Flights
had resumed by midday on Tuesday.
Tuesday proved too cold even for some polar bears. At Lincoln Park
Zoo in Chicago, a 14-year-old female polar bear named Anana mostly
remained in her indoor enclosure, where temperatures are 40 F (4 C),
said zoo spokeswoman Sharon Dewar.
She said that in their native environment, polar bears build up a
layer of fat to help them through the Arctic winter of long periods
of sub-zero temperatures. In Chicago, however, she said "we don't
create that fat layer in zoo animals because that would normally not
be something they would be comfortable with."
(Additional reporting by Nick Carey and Dhanya Skariachan in
Chicago, Barbara Goldberg, Ellen Wulfhorst, Scott DiSavino and
Marina Lopes in New York, Ian Simpson in Washington, Eileen O'Grady
in Houston, Daniel Lovering in Boston, David Beasley and Karen
Jacobs in Atlanta, Kim Palmer in Cleveland, Colleen Jenkins in
Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Heide Brandes in Oklahoma City, Keith
Coffman in Denver, Tom Brown in Miami and Eric M. Johnson in
Seattle; writing by Scott Malone and Mary Wisniewski; editing by
Phil Berlowitz, Grant McCool and Ken Wills)
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