(Corrects name of forecaster in 15th paragraph)
By Mary Wisniewski
CHICAGO Jan 27 Bitter cold and high winds
surging down from the Arctic pushed wind chills to dangerous
levels across the upper Midwest on Monday, forcing officials to
close schools and warn drivers off roads, and slowing public
transit and river traffic.
"We have a surge of Arctic high pressure out of Canada that
has overspread the upper Midwest and central plains," said
Andrew Krein, a meteorologist with the National Weather
Service's northern Illinois bureau.
The Chicago area has not experienced a winter this cold in
30 years, since 1983-1984, Krein said, adding that wind chills
in Chicago overnight could approach minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit
Chicago, Minneapolis and other parts of the Upper Midwest
will have two consecutive days of subzero highs on Monday
through Tuesday, according to forecasters. Highs will be held to
the single digits and teens Tuesday and Wednesday across most of
the Northeast, according to Accuweather.com.
Officials closed schools in Chicago, Cincinnati and the
Cleveland area on Monday due to the biting cold, and most
districts were closed across Minnesota.
The Illinois Department of Transportation warned drivers of
"whiteout conditions" in the northern part of the state due to
high winds, and Metra, a Chicago-area commuter rail service,
warned riders of weather-related delays.
The frigid temperatures also are causing ice to accumulate
on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, slowing the movement of
grain barges to the U.S. Gulf, according to Drew Lerner, a
meteorologist at World Weather Inc.
About 800 flights have been canceled within, into and out of
the United States on Monday, according to FlightAware.com, which
U.S Storm Prediction Center forecaster Corey Mead said the
cold weather pattern that has caused such cold weather east of
the Rockies could ease up in the eastern United States in the
next week or two but continue in the Midwest.
"Chicago probably won't get any relief," Mead said.
Even the South is seeing extremes this week.
Wind gusts up to 35 mph (56 km) knocked down power lines in
the Dallas-Forth Worth area in Texas and temperatures were
expected to fall into the 20s overnight, a shocking drop from
highs in the 60s and 70s over the weekend, the weather service
Heavy snowfall is expected starting on Tuesday across
eastern North Carolina, according to the weather service.
The weather service said coastal South Carolina will get
rare ice accumulation with some snow and temperatures below
freezing on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"It's definitely not common for us," said Emily Timte, a
weather service forecaster, who said the coast last had ice
accumulation in 2011.
In Alaska, the roughly 4,000 residents of Valdez remained
cut off to road traffic from the rest of the state Monday after
weekend avalanches blocked the road into and out of the coastal
town, officials said.
(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Additional reporting by Julie
Ingwersen in Chicago, David Bailey in Minneapolis, Kim Palmer in
Cleveland, Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, N.C., Harriet
McLeod in Charleston, S.C., and Karen Brooks in Austin; Editing
by Steve Orlofsky)