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 nine deaths have been reported across the country
connected with the polar air mass that swept 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
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.
PJM Interconnection, 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 PJM
Oil refiners were also hit, with Marathon Petroleum Corp
and Exxon Mobil Corp both experiencing
In Oklahoma, a depleted supply of propane due to extreme
weather led Governor Mary Fallin to declare a state of
emergency, waiving licensing requirements for out-of-state
transportation companies to allow them to bring in propane.
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
The extreme cold won't last much longer, according to
AccuWeather.com. The frigid air and "polar vortex" that
affected about 240 million people in the United States and
southern Canada will depart during the second half of this week,
and a far-reaching January thaw will begin, according to
COLD'S BROAD REACH
Major U.S. cities were in the grip of temperatures well
below freezing, with Chicago seeing 2 degrees Fahrenheit (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 for a second
day on Tuesday, although Chicago plans to reopen schools on
Wednesday. Cleveland remained below freezing after temperatures
fell to minus 11 F (minus 24 C) on Monday, breaking a
Impassable snow and ice halted three Chicago-bound Amtrak
trains on Monday, stranding more than 500 passengers overnight
in northwestern Illinois.
In the normally mild south, Atlanta recorded its coldest
weather on this date in 44 years, as 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.
A large avalanche in backcountry outside the Colorado ski
resort area of Vail killed one person on Tuesday and caught up
three others who survived and were being rescued, officials
said. Avalanche danger in the area was rated as "considerable"
due to high winds and recent heavy snows, said Spencer Logan,
forecaster with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
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 had 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 mostly remained 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. In Chicago, however, she said
"we don't create that fat layer in zoo animals because that
would normally not be something they would be comfortable with."