Dangerously cold temps spread from U.S. Midwest to South and East - InfoNews

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Dangerously cold temps spread from U.S. Midwest to South and East

A vehicle drives through a barely visible intersection of Route 33 and Batavia Stafford Townline Road on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014 in Stafford, NY. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Democrat & Chronicle, Tina Macintyre-Yee
January 07, 2014 - 1:06 AM

INDIANAPOLIS - Dangerously cold polar air snapped decades-old records as it spread Tuesday from the Midwest to southern and eastern parts of the United States, making it hazardous to venture outside and keeping many schools and businesses shuttered.

Monday's bitterly cold temperatures broke records in Chicago at minus 16 Fahrenheit (-27 C) , and Fort Wayne, Ind., where the mercury fell to 13 below (-25 C). Records also fell in Oklahoma and Texas, and wind chills across the region were 40 below (-40 C) and colder. Officials in states like Indiana already struggling with high winds and more than a foot (30 centimetres) of snow urged residents to stay home if they could.

"The cold is the real killer here," Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard said Monday as he asked schools and businesses to remain closed another day. "In 10 minutes you could be dead without the proper clothes."

The polar air will next invade the East and South on Tuesday, bringing with it the prospect of more records falling. Highs in the single digits F (-17 to -13 C) were expected in Georgia and Alabama, and wind chill warnings stretched as far south as Florida, with forecasts calling for minus 10 (-23 C) in Atlanta and minus 12 (-24 C) in Baltimore.

Forecasters said some 187 million people in all could feel the effects of the "polar vortex" by the time it spreads across the country. Tennessee utility officials braced for near-record power demand, while Ohio prepared for its coldest temperatures in decades.

PJM Interconnection, which operates the power grid supplying energy to more than 61 million people in parts of the mid-Atlantic, Midwest and South, has asked users to conserve electricity Tuesday because of the cold, especially in the morning and late afternoon.

Recovery will be the focus in several Midwestern states Tuesday, since the bitter cold followed snow and high winds that made travelling treacherous — especially on interstates in Indiana and Illinois — and was being blamed for numerous deaths in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence issued disaster declarations, paving the way to request federal aid.

More than 30,000 customers in Indiana were without power late Monday night. Utility crews worked to restore electricity as temperatures plunged into the negative teens (-20s C), but officials cautioned some people could be in the cold and dark for days.

"My kids are ready to go home, and I'm ready too," said 41-year-old Timolyn Johnson-Fitzgerald, of Indianapolis, who faced a second night sleeping on cots at a Red Cross shelter with her three children, ages 11, 15, and 18.

More than 500 Amtrak passengers spent the night on three stopped trains headed for Chicago because of blowing and drifting snow in north-central Illinois. A spokesman said the trains — coming from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Quincy, Ill. — are operating on tracks owned by BNSF railroad and crews are working to reopen the tracks.

Bob Oravec, a meteorologist at the Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland, said the blast of frigid air raised concerns that roads wet from melted snow would freeze over.

But there are signs things are returning to normal.

JetBlue Airways, which stopped all scheduled flights to and from New York and Boston on Monday, planned to resume some flights Tuesday morning. Southwest Airlines operations in Chicago resumed Monday night, even if it was, as a spokesman for the Texas-based airline called it, "a trickle."

The Minnesota Zoo announced it would reopen to the public Tuesday. State legislators in Indiana planned to kick off their 2014 legislative session after a day's postponement.

And warmer temperatures — at least, near or above freezing — are in store for the Midwest. Indianapolis should reach 27 degrees (-3 C) on Wednesday, and other parts of the central U.S. could climb above freezing later in the week.

Even International Falls, Minn., had something to look forward to. Wind chills dropped as low as minus 55 (-48 C) Monday, but were expected to rebound to minus 25 (-32 C) Tuesday. By Friday, the low was expected to be 5 to 10 above zero (-15 to -13 C), Oravec said.

News from © The Associated Press, 2014
The Associated Press

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