By Victoria Cavaliere and Brendan O'Brien
NEW YORK/MILWAUKEE Jan 7 A deadly blast of
arctic air shattered decades-old temperature records as it
enveloped the eastern United States on Tuesday, snarling air,
road and rail travel, driving energy prices higher and
overwhelming shelters for homeless people.
At least eight deaths have been reported across the country
because of the polar air mass sweeping over North America during
the past few days. Authorities have put about half of the United
States under a wind chill warning or cold weather advisory.
Temperatures were expected to be 25 degrees to 35 degrees
Fahrenheit (14 to 19 degrees Celsius) below normal from the
Midwest to the Southeast, the National Weather Service said.
The agency that oversees the electric grid supplying the
mid-Atlantic and parts of the Midwest said electricity suppliers
were struggling to keep up with surging demand as the cold
forced some power plants to shut.
"This particular cold is far-reaching and most of our
neighbors are experiencing the extreme conditions we are," said
Michael Kormos, executive vice president for operations at the
agency, PJM Interconnection. Its members include units of
American Electric Power Co, FirstEnergy Corp,
Exelon Corp, Public Service Electric & Gas Co.
Oil refiners were also hit, with Marathon Petroleum Corp
and Exxon Mobil Corp both experiencing
Homeless shelters and public buildings took in people who
were freezing outside.
Daniel Dashner, a 33-year-old homeless man who typically
sleeps under a bridge on Milwaukee's south side, said he opted
to seek a spot at a shelter on Monday night.
"Usually if I have four or five blankets, I can stay pretty
warm, but when that wind is blowing, I don't care how many
blankets I have, the wind blows right through me," he said, as
temperatures dropped to minus 6 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 21
COLD'S BROAD REACH
Major U.S. cities were in the grip of temperatures well
below freezing, with Chicago seeing 2 F (minus 17 C), Detroit 0
F (minus 18 C), Pittsburgh 5 F (minus 15 C), Washington 19
(minus 7 C) and Boston 15 F (minus 9 C).
New York's Central Park recorded the lowest temperature for
the date, 4 Fahrenheit (minus 16 C), rising to 9 F (minus 13 C)
on Tuesday afternoon with wind chills making it feel much
colder, meteorologists said.
At New York's Bowery Mission homeless shelter, the 80-bed
dormitory was full on Monday night and 179 other people slept in
the chapel and cafeteria, officials said.
Schools in Minneapolis and Chicago were closed. Cleveland
remained below freezing after temperatures fell to minus 11 F
(minus 24 C) on Monday, breaking a 130-year-old record.
Impassable snow and ice halted three Chicago-bound Amtrak
trains Monday, stranding more than 500 passengers overnight in
northwestern Illinois. The passengers were being taken to
Chicago by bus on Tuesday.
In the normally mild south, Atlanta recorded its coldest
weather on this date in 44 years, when the temperature dropped
to 6 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 14 degrees Celsius), while
temperatures in northern Florida also briefly dropped below
freezing, though the state's citrus crop was unharmed, according
to a major growers' group.
Among the deaths reported was a 51-year-old homeless man in
Columbus, Georgia, whose body was found in an empty lot after
spending the night outdoors.
Two men died in Westerport, Massachusetts while duck hunting
on Tuesday when their boat capsized, dropping them into a frigid
river, officials said. A third man was rescued.
Four cold and storm-related deaths were reported around
Chicago and an elderly woman was found dead outside her
Indianapolis home early Monday.
The cold snap could cost the U.S. economy up to $5 billion,
when lost productivity and lost retail sales are accounted for,
estimated Evan Gold, senior vice president at Planalytics, which
tracks weather for businesses. He said about 200 million people
in major cities might face "bill shock" for heating.
The deep freeze disrupted commutes on Tuesday with icy or
closed roads and flight delays. Some 2,380 U.S. flights were
canceled and 2,912 delayed, according to FlightAware.com, which
tracks airline activity. Airlines scrambled to catch up a day
after the cold froze fuel supplies, leading to flight
cancellations, many at Chicago O'Hare International Airport.
Hardest hit were travelers who had booked trips on JetBlue
Airways Corp, which on Monday halted its flights at New
York's three major airports and Boston Logan International
Airport overnight. Flights resumed by midday on Tuesday.
Tuesday proved too cold even for some polar bears. At
Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, a 14-year-old female polar bear
named Anana has been mostly in her indoor enclosure, where
temperatures are 40 F (4 C), said zoo spokeswoman Sharon Dewar.
She said that in their native environment polar bears build
up a layer of fat to help them through the Arctic winter of long
periods of sub zero temperatures. But she said, "we don't create
that fat layer in zoo animals because that would normally not be
something they would be comfortable with."