1 Feb 2019

Deadly Arctic deep freeze in US: 12 dead as brutal winds and temperatures continue

8:35 am on 1 February 2019

The blast of Arctic air that brought record-breaking cold, causing at least a dozen deaths and cancelling or delaying thousands of flights in the US Midwest, spread eastward today, bringing frigid misery to the Northeast.

Firefighters at the scene of a house fire in Saint Paul, Minnesota during a arctic deep freeze on 30 January.

Firefighters at the scene of a house fire in Saint Paul, Minnesota during a arctic deep freeze on 30 January. Photo: David Joles/Star Tribune via AP

A forecast for warmer weather by the weekend offered little comfort to those enduring icy conditions, brutal winds and temperatures as low as minus 30C.

"This morning is some of the coldest of the temperatures across the Upper Midwest, and we still have some dangerous wind chills," Andrew Orrison, a forecaster for the National Weather Service, said in a phone interview.

In Minnesota and Upper Michigan, temperatures will be at minus minus 29C today and parts of North Dakota can expect minus 30F, forecasters warned.

The bitter cold was caused by displacement of the polar vortex, a stream of air that normally spins around the stratosphere over the North Pole but whose current was disrupted.

It pushed eastward and states including Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania experienced bitterly cold temperatures.

The overnight low in Boston was at minus minus 21C, according to the National Weather Service.

Drifting snow blows across Mount Joy in Lancaster County.

Drifting snow blows across Mount Joy in Lancaster County. Photo: Photo / AFP

"This morning is the worst of the worst in terms of the cold," Orrison said. "It'll be the coldest outbreak of Arctic air (so far this winter) for the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast."

It has been more than 20 years since a similar Arctic blast covered a swath of the Midwest and Northeast, according to the weather service.

The cold has caused at least 12 deaths since Sunday across the Midwest, according to officials and news media reports. Some died in weather-related traffic accidents, others from apparent exposure to the elements.

Videos this week showed boiling water freezing as it was tossed in the air in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and transit workers in Chicago setting fire to train tracks to keep them from locking up.

Even parts of the South, such as the mountains of Kentucky, Tennessee and upper Georgia, will be in the single digits, the weather service said.

More than 30 record lows were shattered across the Midwest. Some areas only saw a high of minus 23F today.

The lowest temperature recorded that day was minus 40C in International Falls, Minnesota, just south of Canada. The city, dubbed the Icebox of the Nation, saw temperatures drop another 5C.

 A general view of Bryant Park's Josephine Shaw Lowell Fountain during freeze temperatures in New York, United States on January 31, 2019.

A general view of Bryant Park's Josephine Shaw Lowell Fountain during freeze temperatures in New York, United States on January 31, 2019. Photo: AFP

US homes and businesses used record amounts of natural gas for heating yesterday, according to preliminary results from financial data provider Refinitiv.

The weather caused hundreds of traffic accidents, including a chain-reaction collision of about two dozen cars in Grand Rapids, Michigan, during a whiteout yesterday, local media reported.

More than 2500 flights were cancelled and more than 3500 were delayed today, most of them out of Chicago's O'Hare International and Midway International airports, according to the flight tracking site FlightAware.com.

- Reuters

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