Icy, snow-covered roads and high winds made travel treacherous from the Dakotas to Michigan and Missouri as much of the US braced for dangerously cold temperatures that could break records.
A whirlpool of frigid, dense air known as a “polar vortex” was expected to suppress temperatures in more than half of the continental US starting Monday, with wind chill warnings stretching from Montana to Alabama.
The forecast is extreme: 31 Celsius below zero degree in Fargo, North Dakota, -35 C in International Falls, Minnesota, and -26 C in Indianapolis and Chicago. Wind chills what it feels like outside when high winds are factored into the temperature could drop into the negative 50s and 60s. Northeastern Montana was warned on Sunday of wind chills up to 51 below zero C.
“It’s just a dangerous cold,” National Weather Service meteorologist Butch Dye in Missouri said.
Several Midwestern states received up to 30 cm of new snow yesterday. The National Weather Service said snowfall at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago totalled more than 28 cm as of 6 pm (local time) yesterday the most since the Feb 2, 2011, storm.
In Chicago, temperatures were expected to bottom out around minus minus 26 degree C overnight, likely setting a daily record, National Weather Service meteorologist Ed Fenelon said. Earlier yesterday, temperatures sank to 29 below C and colder in northern Minnesota and Grand Forks, North Dakota.
The deep freeze extended into Canada where parts of eastern Alberta and northwest Ontario were under wind chill warnings. In Winnipeg, Manitoba, temperatures fell to minus 30 C on Sunday.
It hasn’t been this cold for almost two decades in many parts of the US Frostbite and hypothermia can set in quickly at 26 to 34.4 below zero C.
Travel problems started early yesterday. In New York City, a plane from Toronto landed at Kennedy International Airport and then slid into snow on a taxiway. No one was hurt, though the airport temporarily suspended operations because of icy runways.
About 1,300 flights had been cancelled yesterday at O’Hare and Midway international airports in Chicago, aviation officials said, and there also were cancellations at Logan International Airport in Boston and Tennessee’s Memphis and Nashville international airports.
Schools were called off today for the entire state of Minnesota, as well as cities and districts in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Iowa, among others.