|Deadly icy blast threatens eastern US cities
Millions across the United States braced for a “life-threatening'' bitter Arctic blast that could send temperatures plummeting to their coldest in 20 years.
The northeastern United States and parts of Canada have endured heavy snow and deadly sub-zero conditions since the start of the year, but the deep freeze is now moving through much of the US east of the Rocky Mountains.
The wind chill from the rare “polar vortex'' could make it feel as cold as -60 Fahrenheit (-51 Celsius) in places, weather forecasters say, prompting authorities to warn residents to stay indoors and stock up on food, AFP reports.
“Cold temperatures and gusty winds associated with an arctic airmass will continue dangerously cold wind chills as far south as Brownsville, Texas and central Florida,'' the National Weather Service said.
“This arctic air mass will affect the eastern two-thirds of the country on Monday as a sharp cold front moves towards the East Coast.''
Exposed skin could suffer frostbite in as little as five minutes in such conditions, experts warn.
The NWS described the weather as “life-threatening'' and “the coldest temperatures in almost two decades.''
Combined with wind gusts, the low temperatures in some areas “will result in life-threatening wind-chill values as low as 60 degrees [Fahrenheit] below zero,'' it said.
Authorities are warning people that they could face issues like cars that won't start and flooded roads that quickly ice over caused by water pipes that freeze and burst.
Thousands of flights out of major airports like Chicago O'Hare International and New York's John F. Kennedy were delayed or canceled Sunday due to weather-related problems.
At O'Hare, one of the country's busiest airports, officials said that more than 1,300 flights were canceled.
The states of Minnesota and North Dakota were expected to experience the worst weather.
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton announced that schools will be closed Monday “to protect all our children from the dangerously cold temperatures.''
The southern city of Atlanta will likely experience record low temperatures, while in normally balmy Florida, the NWS issued a hard freeze warning for much of the northern part of the state.
The NWS said that across the country “the cold temperatures will remain in place through mid-week before a warming trend begins.''
Deaths blamed on the frigid weather include a worker crushed by a 100-foot pile of salt being prepared to treat roads in the Philadelphia area on Friday, and a 71-year-old woman suffering from Alzheimer's disease who froze to death after getting lost in New York state, officials said.