Arctic blast grips US Northeast, Midwest, to last days

NEW YORK Tue Jan 22, 2013 2:18pm EST

A woman walks in the financial district of New York, January 22, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

A woman walks in the financial district of New York, January 22, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An Arctic blast gripped the U.S. Midwest and Northeast on Tuesday, with at least three deaths reportedly tied to the cold snap and fierce winds that made some locations feel as cold as 50 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. (min us 46 degrees Celsius)

"We're seeing some life-threatening temperatures in Minnesota and Northern Wisconsin," said meteorologist Mike Sowko of the National Weather Service.

"They are closest to the source of the cold air, which is from the Arctic and Canada," he said.

Winds blasting across the Great Lakes over the past few days into Tuesday also resulted in up to 18 inches (46 cm) of snow dumped over northeast Ohio, northwest Pennsylvania and upstate New York.

"Pretty much the southeast side of any Great Lake got lake effect snow," Sowko said.

Icy conditions were blamed for a 76-vehicle pileup on Ohio's Interstate 275 near Cincinnati on Monday, which killed a 12-year-old girl and injured dozens of people, authorities said.

Elsewhere, two deaths from exposure were tied to the cold snap, according to media reports.

In northwestern Minnesota, the Mahnomen County sheriff's office said a man who was found in a storage building on Saturday died from hypothermia according to a preliminary autopsy report, the Bemidji Pioneer newspaper reported.

The Chicago Tribune reported on Tuesday that a Des Plaines, Illinois, man had died from hypothermia over the weekend, the seventh cold-related death this season, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office.

Schools, set to resume classes on Tuesday after Monday's national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, were cancelled in some states including Massachusetts and Ohio.

Wind chill advisories were in effect throughout the Midwest and Northeast on Tuesday, with last winter's unseasonably warm temperatures making this January blast seem even colder, Sowko said.

As a result, temperatures felt like 50 degrees below zero in isolated sections of the upper Midwest and to minus 30 degrees in parts of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and upstate New York, the forecaster said.

"The coldest morning is actually going to be tomorrow, Wednesday. It's going to be a few degrees cooler but the winds won't be as bad. It's kind of a zero sum game there," Sowko said.

The area will remain in winter's icy grip until the end of the week, when a snowstorm was predicted to move up the Ohio Valley and through the Northeast, bringing slightly warmer temperatures and a few inches of snow to New York, Boston and possibly Washington, D.C., Sowko said. (Editing by Marguerita Choy and David Gregorio)

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