Friday 24 June 2016

Deep Arctic freeze grips US disrupting travel and business

Published 07/01/2014 | 07:04

A wrecked semi truck sits in the ditch on the eastbound side of I-74 west of St. Joseph, Illinois
A wrecked semi truck sits in the ditch on the eastbound side of I-74 west of St. Joseph, Illinois

A blast of Arctic air has gripped the vast middle of the United States with the coldest temperatures in two decades causing at least four deaths, forcing businesses and schools to close and canceling thousands of flights.

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 (minus 24C).

Passengers heading into downtown wait on an "L" platform for the train to arrive in below zero temperatures on January 7, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. Platforms were crowded and trains were delayed because doors on the trains kept freezing open. Chicago is experiencing its third consecutive day of below zero temperatures.
Passengers heading into downtown wait on an "L" platform for the train to arrive in below zero temperatures on January 7, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. Platforms were crowded and trains were delayed because doors on the trains kept freezing open. Chicago is experiencing its third consecutive day of below zero temperatures.
Icicles hang from a fountain along Canal Street as temperatures in the area plummeted below freezing on January 7, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Highs are expected be in the upper 30's in metro New Orleans. A "polar vortex" carrying Arctic air and wind gusts of up to 50 mph has engulfed much of the Northeast making for life threatening weather conditions.
A family braves the cold to take photographs along the icy shore of Lake Michigan as temperatures remain in the negative digits on January 7, 2014 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A 'polar vortex' of frigid air centered on the North Pole dropped temperatures to the negative double digits at its worst.
Bundled up in their coats people wait for the Street Car on Canal Street as temperatures in the area plummeted below freezing on January 7, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Highs are expected be in the upper 30's in metro New Orleans. A "polar vortex" carrying Arctic air and wind gusts of up to 50 mph has engulfed much of the Northeast making for life threatening weather conditions.
A passenger waits on an "L" platform for the train to arrive in below-zero temperatures on January 7, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. Many trains were delayed on the system because doors on the trains kept freezing open. Chicago is experiencing its third consecutive day of below-zero temperatures.
Commuters prepare to catch a bus after waiting on a frozen sidewalk in below zero temperatures on January 7, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. Chicago is experiencing its third consecutive day of below zero temperatures. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
A passenger heading toward downtown waits on an "L" platform for the train to arrive in below zero temperatures on January 7, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. Trains were delayed on the system because doors on the trains kept freezing open. Chicago is experiencing its third consecutive day of below-zero temperatures. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
A wrecked semi truck sits in the ditch on the eastbound side of I-74 west of St. Joseph, Ill., on Monday Jan. 6, 2014. Monday morning found east central Illinois encased in bitter cold, sub zero temperatures and blowing snow. (AP Photo/News-Gazette/John Dixon)
Daryl Daugherty clears the sidewalk in front of his home, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, in Carmel, Ind., as temperatures dropped lower than 10 below zero. More than 12 inches of snow fell on Sunday. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Lee Tuttle, 66, takes a break from blowing snow off of his driveway to pose for a portrait on Sunday, January 5, 2014 at his home on Miller Road in Flint, Mich. He said he hadn't really noticed the icicles forming in his beard. (AP Photo/The Flint Journal, :Michelle Tessier)
A woman pushes her daughter and their groceries through blowing snow in the Kroger parking lot in Green Acres Plaza on State Street in Saginaw Township, Mich., Monday, Jan. 6, 2014. Bitter cold air and blowing snow moved into the area Monday. (AP Photo/The Saginaw News, Jeff Schrier)
In an imagge made with a fisheye lens, Marguerite Johnston uncovers her car in Grosse Pointe, Mich., Monday, Jan. 6, 2014. Michigan residents are preparing for diving temperatures as they dig out from more than 15 inches of snow in places. .(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
A barge moves up a steamy Ohio River, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, past downtown Cincinnati. Temperatures in the area dipped below zero. Frigid, dense air swirled across much of the U.S. on Monday, (AP Photo/Al Behrman)
A man carrying a snow shovel walks along Market Street in Champaign, Ill., on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014. Icy, snow-covered roads and high winds made travel treacherous from the Dakotas and Michigan to Missouri as much of the nation braced for the next winter wallop: a dangerous cold that could break records. (AP Photo/The News-Gazette, Holly Hart)
Allan Umscheid, owner of Yards By Al in Lawrence, Kan, feels the bitter wind and catches drifting snow on his face as he runs a snow blower early Sunday morning, Jan. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/The Journal-World, Mike Yoder)
Sunlight streams through the windows of a building which caught on fire in Plattsmouth, Neb., Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, and the water sprayed on it by fire fighters froze. Much of the American northeast and the midwest are suffering from sub-freezing temperatures. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
A man prepares to remove his plow stuck in a snow bank as snow and wind swirls around Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014, in St. Louis. Snow that began in parts of Missouri Saturday night picked up intensity after dawn Sunday with several inches of snow on the ground by midmorning and more on the way. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Three brothers, from left, Trevor, Connor, and Austin Bartz built this 16 foot high snow shark in the front yard of their New Brighton, Minn. home, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. It took them around 95 hours of work and they gathered the snow from houses in their neighborhood. (AP Photo/Star Tribune, Glen Stubbe)
A person struggles to cross a street in blowing and falling snow as the Gateway Arch appears in the distance Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014, in St. Louis. Snow that began in parts of Missouri Saturday night picked up intensity after dawn Sunday with several inches of snow on the ground by midmorning and more on the way. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
With temperatures at about 22 below zero with a -50 windchill, it was hard to find the beauty in the brutal weather in Bismarck, N.D., Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014. Sundogs, a ring of light visible around the sun or moon when light is refracted through ice crystals in the atmosphere, are quite beautiful along Highway 83 north of Bismark ND. (AP Photo/The Bismarck Tribune, Brian Peterson)
Gary Warrington, of Atlantic City, digs out his car out on Arctic Ave, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014 in Atlantic City, N. J. New Jersey had a snow day Friday as schools, government offices and businesses closed for a winter storm that dropped up to 10 inches of snow in some areas and ushered in bitterly cold temperatures rarely seen in the region. (AP Photo/The Press of Atlantic City, Edward Lea)
John Brower snow in his eye lashes after running to work in the frigid -20 weather Monday, Jan. 6, 2014 in Minneapolis. A whirlpool of frigid, dense air known as a "polar vortex" descended Monday into much of the U.S. (AP Photo/The Star Tribune, Elizabeth Flores)
A truck moves cautiously through blowing snow in I-74 eastbound through Urbana, Ill., on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014. Icy, snow-covered roads and high winds made travel treacherous from the Dakotas and Michigan to Missouri as much of the nation braced for the next winter wallop: a dangerous cold that could break records. (AP Photo/The News-Gazette, Holly Hart)
Four homeless men warm themselves on a steam grate by the Federal Trade Commission, blocks from the Capitol, during frigid temperatures in Washington, Saturday, January 4, 2014. A winter storm that swept across the Midwest this week blew through the Northeast on Friday, leaving bone-chilling cold in its wake. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Chris Tinney, 41, removes snow in front of Racquets Downtown Grill and Drs. Gundersen and Zuker's optometrist office on West Western Avenue in Muskegon, Mich., Monday morning of Jan. 6, 2014. Tinney works for Schultz Landscape Construction, Irrigation, and Snow Removal of Muskegon. "If you dress for it you are okay," Tinney said about the cold. (AP Photo/The Muskegon Chronicle, Ken Stevens)
Nick warms himself on a steam grate with three other homeless men by the Federal Trade Commission, just blocks from the Capitol, during frigid temperatures in Washington, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014. A winter storm that swept across the Midwest this week blew through the Northeast on Friday, leaving bone-chilling cold in its wake. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Daryl Daugherty clears the sidewalk in front of his home, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, in Carmel, Ind., as temperatures dropped lower than 10 below zero. More than 12 inches of snow fell on Sunday. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Greg Rohde has an ice and snow encrusted beard after commuting to work at the University of Minnesota by cross-country skis along West River Parkway in the frigid -20 weather, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/The Star Tribune, Elizabeth Flores )
Cars are covered with snow after a snowstorm in front of the George Washington Bridge, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014 on Riverside Drive in the Manhattan borough of New York. (AP Photo/Northjersey.com, Carmine Galasso)
A woman walks back to her car in the long term parking lot at Indianapolis International Airport, Monday Jan. 6, 2014. The coldest, most dangerous blast of polar air in decades gripped the Midwest and pushed toward the East and South on Monday, closing schools and day care centers, grounding flights and forcing people to pull their hoods and scarves tight to protect exposed skin from nearly instant frostbite. (AP Photo/The Indianapolis Star, Joe Vitti)
In this Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014 photo, Ron, a bison at Brookfield Zoo, is covered in snow and doesn't seemed phased by the frigid temperatures or snow blowing through the Chicago area. The zoo was closed Monday, Jan . 6 due to the snowstorm and sub-zero temperatures and plans to reopen Tuesday. It was only the fourth time in Brookfield Zoo's history dating back to 1934 that it has closed due to severe weather conditions. (AP Photo/Chicago Zoological Society, Jim Schulz)
Megan Spencer, 14, and Brooke Spencer, 9, front, test out a snow fort on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, at their home in Grand Blanc, Mich. More than 13 inches of snow was reportedly recorded for the Grand Blanc area. (AP Photo/The Grand Rapids Press, Michelle Tessier)
Brooke Spencer, 9, makes a face after eating some snow on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, at her home in Grand Blanc, Mich. Grand Blanc recorded more than 13 inches of snow. (AP Photo/The Grand Rapids Press, Michelle Tessier)
Laborers shovel the snow off of the sidewalk in the midtown neighborhood of Detroit, Michigan January 6, 2014. A blast of Arctic air gripped the vast middle of the United States on Monday, with the coldest temperatures in two decades threatening lives, forcing businesses and schools to close and canceling thousands of flights. 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 Coastwhere temperatures were expected to fall into Tuesday. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook
Megan Draper of Noblesville, Indiana covers her face to stay warm after stopping at a rest stop on Interstate 65 north of Indianapolis, Indiana January 6, 2014. A blast of Arctic air gripped the vast middle of the United States on Monday, bringing the coldest temperatures felt in two decades, causing at least four deaths, forcing businesses and schools to close and canceling thousands of flights. 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 Coastwhere temperatures were expected to fall into Tuesday. REUTERS/Nate Chute
A woman is bundled up against the cold weather in Indianapolis, Indiana January 6, 2014. A blast of Arctic air gripped the vast middle of the United States on Monday, bringing the coldest temperatures felt in two decades, causing at least four deaths, forcing businesses and schools to close and canceling thousands of flights. 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 Coastwhere temperatures were expected to fall into Tuesday. REUTERS/Nate Chute

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).

TRAVEL SNARLED

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, outhwest, 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 Monday until 10 a.m. EST on Tuesday to give crews time to rest.

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.

 

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