Ice, snow and freezing wind bring US states to standstill
THE coldest weather in more than two decades has swept across America's Midwest and there have been a number of deaths.
Cities across the US Midwest are coming to a standstill as a deadly "polar vortex" hits states from Mississippi to Ohio with snowstorms, ice and freezing winds.
The extreme weather is being blamed for at least 16 deaths so far, including a woman with Alzheimer's who froze to death while walking near her rural home in New York state. An estimated 140 Americans have been hit by the sub zero temperatures.
Elsewhere, a worker was crushed by a massive pile of salt at a storage facility in Philadelphia.
One person died and two were injured when a plane crashed at Aspen-Pitkin County Airport in western Colorado at the weekend. The cause is being investigated.
At New York's JFK airport, a plane from Toronto skidded on a snowy runway as hazardous conditions caused more than 3,700 flights to be cancelled over the weekend.
In the coldest weather seen in many places for more than 20 years, temperatures of -35C are forecast in North Dakota, and temperatures of -27C in Minneapolis, Indianapolis and Chicago.
The deep freeze has seen wind chills drop below -50C, temperatures at which unprotected flesh could freeze.
People are being warned to stay indoors or wrap up warm if going outside to avoid hypothermia and frostbite.
The US National Weather Service said that the "dangerously" low temperatures and freezing winds would continue as the cold front moved towards the East Coast today.
Schools in many cities, including Chicago, have been closed.
The Mayor of Indianapolis made it illegal to drive, except in emergencies or to seek shelter.
It is the first time the extreme ban has been put in place since the blizzard of 1978.
Mayor Greg Ballard said: "This extreme cold poses a serious health and safety risk and for that reason the city is asking people to proactively prepare."
Up to 30cm of snow grounded thousands of flights at airports including Chicago, Indianapolis and St Louis yesterday.
St Louis was one of the many cities to see shopping centres, cinemas and restaurants close on Sunday as safety warnings and transport chaos brought it to a virtual standstill.
Government offices and courts in several states were also closed yesterday.
The icy blast follows another freezing storm that hit north-eastern parts of the US last week.
There will be no respite until the end of the week, when a warm weather front will start the thaw.
The weather phenomenon -- which was the basis for the 2004 disaster film 'The Day After Tomorrow' -- can be more than 1,200 miles across.
They are usually concentrated near the earth's poles but when arctic air masses move south, they can create deadly ice storms, heavy snowfall and plummeting temperatures.
The big freeze follows the warmest November on record, when the global temperature was 0.8C above the 20th-Century average of 12.9C.(© Independent News Service)