Sunday 23 September 2018

Record-breaking chill claims several lives in US Mid West

The sun rises on Lake Superior in Duluth, Minnesota (Star Tribune/AP)
The sun rises on Lake Superior in Duluth, Minnesota (Star Tribune/AP)

Bone-chilling cold has gripped much of the US as 2018 began, breaking century-old records and leading to several deaths.

The National Weather Service issued wind chill advisories and freeze warnings on Tuesday covering a vast area from south Texas to Canada and from Montana to New England.

Authorities opened warming shelters in the South as temperatures dipped close to zero in Alabama and Georgia.

The bitter cold enveloped much of the Mid West on Monday, but it did not deter hundreds of people from ringing in the new year by jumping into Lake Michigan.

Throngs of people took part in the Polar Plunge in Milwaukee, despite sub-freezing temperatures and warnings of potential hypothermia.

Organisers cancelled a similar event on the Chicago lakefront after the temperature dipped below zero and thick white steam rose from the lake.

An annual New Year's Day waterskiing show on Pigeon Lake in western Michigan was cancelled for the first time since the event was launched in 1980 because the water was frozen solid.

Temperatures plunged below zero elsewhere in the Mid West, including in Aberdeen, South Dakota, where the mercury dropped to a record-breaking minus 36C.

The city's previous New Year's Day record had stood for 99 years.

In Nebraska, temperatures hit minus 26C before midnight on Sunday in Omaha, breaking a record dating to 1884.

Omaha officials cited the forecast in postponing the 18th annual New Year's Eve Fireworks Spectacular that draws around 30,000 people.

It was colder in Des Moines, Iowa, where city officials closed an outdoor ice skating plaza and said it would not reopen until the city emerged from sub-zero temperatures.

The temperature hit minus 29C early on Monday, with the wind chill dipping to minus 35C.

The weather service said temperatures in Indianapolis early on Tuesday tied a record low of minus 24C for January 2 set in 1887.

In north-eastern Montana, the wind chill readings dipped as low as minus 50C, a nd in Duluth, Minnesota, a city known for its bitter cold winters, the wind chill hit minus 38C.

Plunging overnight temperatures in Texas brought rare snow flurries as far south as Austin, and accidents racked up on icy roads across the state.

In the central city of Abilene, the police chief said more than three dozen vehicle crashes were reported in 24 hours.

It was even cold in the Deep South, as temperatures plummeted early on Tuesday to minus 10C in Atlanta and minus 3C as far south as New Orleans.

The cold has been attributed in at least eight deaths in the past week.

Most recently, sheriff's officials in Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin, said a 27-year-old woman whose body was found on Monday evening on the shore of Lake Winnebago probably died of exposure.

Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office said two men whose bodies were found on Sunday showed signs of hypothermia.

Police believe the cold weather may also have been a factor in the death of a man in Bismarck, North Dakota, whose body was found near a river.

AP

Press Association

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