Arctic Monday for 140 million as ‘POLAR VORTEX’ barrels across the US: 3,700 flights canceled with the coldest temperatures recorded in 20 years<
- As many as 140 million Americans are braced this week for dangerously cold temperatures as a ‘polar vortex’ – a whirlpool of cold, dense air – descends on much of the country
- Much of the U.S. will see the coldest temperatures in almost 20 years, while wind chills – the temperature outside when high winds are included – could drop into the minus 50s and 60s
- Records have already been set in Chicago – where temperatures plummeted to minus 16 degrees at O’Hare Airport
- Officials in Minnesota have taken the rare step of closing all public schools, while schools in St. Louis and Milwaukee, among other cities, are also shut for the day
- The forecast is extreme: 32 below zero in Fargo, North Dakota; minus 21 in Madison, Wisconsin; and 27 below zero in Minneapolis
More than half of the U.S. is enduring a dangerously cold start to the week as a whirlpool of frigid, dense air known as a ‘polar vortex’ descended this morning, pummeling parts of the country with a dangerous cold and adding to the brutal weather that has grounded more than 3,700 flights.
Record low temperatures have already been set; at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, temperatures of minus 16 degrees were recorded at 8am, beating the previous record of minus 14 set in 1988.
In Minnesota, officials have taken the rare step of closing all of the state’s public schools on Monday – the first time in 17 years. Temperatures in Embarrass, Minnesota, already fell to minus 36 degrees on Friday, setting a record for the lowest temperature in the U.S. outside Alaska.
Today, Minneapolis is expected to endure a low of minus 27 degrees, although the wind chill it would feel like the minus 40s. Meteorologists have warned about the weather ‘dangerous, life-threatening winds’, that could inflict frostbite on exposed skin in just 10 minutes.
With wind chill warnings stretching from Montana to Alabama, much of the U.S. will see the coldest temperatures in almost 20 years, according to the National Weather Service. They are expected to be 30 to 50 degrees below average in some cities – and the deep freeze is expected to last into Tuesday.
Gray skies: Fog shrouds Boston Harbor and obscures the skyline on Monday morning. Rain is forecast for the area with temperatures reaching into the 50s
Meteorologists are warning of the dangers of the plummeting temperatures.
‘Skin freezes in just five minutes with a wind chill of minus 50,’ said HLN meteorologist Bob Van Dillen as wind chills are putting temperatures in northern Minnesota at 60 below zero.
For a big chunk of the Midwest, the subzero temperatures were moving in behind another winter wallop: more than a foot of snow and high winds that made traveling treacherous.
Thousands of travelers remain stranded or delayed following a chaotic weekend of canceled flights. FlightAware reported that more than 3,700 flights had been canceled by Monday morning – on top of the 3,800 flights canceled on Sunday.
The forecast is extreme: 32 below zero in Fargo, North Dakota; minus 21 in Madison, Wisconsin; and 15 below zero in Minneapolis, Indianapolis and Chicago. Wind chills – what it feels like outside when high winds are factored into the temperature – could drop into the minus 50s and 60s.
‘It’s just a dangerous cold,’ said National Weather Service meteorologist Butch Dye in Missouri.
It hasn’t been this cold for almost two decades in many parts of the country. Frostbite and hypothermia can set in quickly at 15 to 30 below zero.
Lorna West, a 43-year-old student and consultant from Columbus, Ohio, said she doesn’t believe people unaccustomed to such weather are ready for what’s coming.
Braving the chill: A rugged-up man walks near the snow-covered Lake Michigan in Evanston, Illinois on Friday
A Chicago native, she said thermal underwear, lots of layers and ‘Eskimo coats’ with zipped hoods to block the wind were the norm growing up. ‘And don’t go out if you don’t have to,’ she said.
It was 5 degrees at kickoff on Sunday inside sold-out Lambeau Field for a playoff game between the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers, one of the coldest ever played.
In the parking lot, Craig and Renee Heling of Waukesha, Wisconsin, set up a camouflage hunting blind behind his white pickup truck and tailgated next to a propane heater. He wore four layers of clothing up top, two on his legs: ‘Two wool socks on – right now, I feel comfortable,’ he said.
‘Well, my nose is about frozen. It feels like – I jumped in the lake the other day – it feels about like that,’ his wife said with a laugh. She was completely dry, unlike New Year’s Day when she took part in a ‘polar plunge’ into Lake Michigan.
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard upgraded the city’s travel emergency level to ‘red,’ making it illegal for anyone to drive except for emergencies or seeking shelter. The last time the city issued such a travel warning was during the 1978 blizzard.
For several Midwestern states, the bitter cold was adding to problems caused by a weekend snow storm. The National Weather Service said the snowfall at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport totaled more than 11 inches as of 6 p.m. Sunday – the most since the Feb. 2, 2011, storm that shut down the city’s famed Lake Shore Drive.
Records: Chicago experienced record temperatures on Monday. At O’Hare Airport temperatures reached minus 16, beating a previous record in 1988
Missouri transportation officials said it was too cold for rock salt to be very effective, and several Illinois roadways were closed because of drifting snow.
A bus taking the Southern Illinois University men’s basketball team home from a game at Illinois State got stuck in the snow Sunday night off Interstate 57, forcing the group to wait for a tow truck and make plans for a night at a hotel in nearby Tuscola, Illinois.
More than 1,000 flights were canceled on Sunday at airports throughout the Midwest including Chicago, Indianapolis and St. Louis.
Many cities came to a virtual standstill. In St. Louis, where more than 10 inches of snow fell, the Gateway Arch, St. Louis Art Museum and St. Louis Zoo were part of the seemingly endless list of things closed. Shopping malls and movie theaters closed, too. Even Hidden Valley Ski Resort, the region’s only ski area, shut down.
School was called off on Monday for the entire state of Minnesota, as well as cities and districts in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana and Iowa, among others.
Chicago Public School officials reversed an earlier decision to keep schools open, announcing late in the day on Sunday that classes would be canceled on Monday.
Government offices and courts in several states closed on Monday. In Indiana, the General Assembly postponed the opening day of its 2014 session, and the state appellate courts, including the Indiana Supreme Court, said they would be closed.
Frozen arches: 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
Among those Radlich and his team brought in Sunday was 55-year-old Garcia Salvaje, who has been without a home since his apartment burned last week. Salvaje, a veteran, had surgery three months ago for a spinal problem. The cold makes the pain from his still-healing back intense.
‘I get all achy and pained all the way up my feet, to my legs, up my spine,’ Salvaje said.
Southern states are bracing for possible record temperatures, too, with single-digit highs expected Tuesday in Georgia and Alabama.
Temperatures are expected to dip into the 30s in parts of Florida on Tuesday. Though Florida Citrus Mutual spokesman Andrew Meadows said it must be at 28 degrees or lower four hours straight for fruit to freeze badly, fruits and vegetables were a concern in other parts of the South.
With two freezing nights ahead, Louisiana citrus farmers could lose any fruit they cannot pick in time.
In Plaquemines Parish, south of New Orleans, Ben Becnel Jr. estimated that Ben & Ben Becnel Inc. had about 5,000 bushels of fruit on the trees, mostly navel oranges and the sweet, thin-skinned mandarin oranges called satsumas.
‘We’re scrambling right now,’ he said.
In western Kentucky, Smithland farmer David Nickell moved extra hay to the field and his animals out of the wind. He’d also stocked up on batteries and gas and loaded up the pantry and freezer. The 2009 ice storm that paralyzed the state and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of people is fresh in his mind.
‘We are hoping this isn’t going to be more than a few days of cold weather, but we did learn with the ice storm that you can wake up in the 19th century and you need to be able to not only survive, but be comfortable and continue with your basic day-to-day functions,’ Nickell said.
One of the coldest football games ever played: It was 5 degrees at kickoff Sunday inside sold-out Lambeau Field for a playoff game between the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers
Brutal: Garrett Ramos tries his best to move the snow in Portland, Maine but the fierce winds were making the task impossible