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Polar freeze moves to US East, South; 21 dead

Record low temperatures set as big chill spreads to American East and Deep South

Commuters exit Union Station with wind chills nearing minus 30 Fahrenheit on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, in downtown Chicago.  Dangerously cold polar air s...
A man walks past a snow encrusted bicycle with wind chills nearing minus 30 Fahrenheit on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, in downtown Chicago.  Dangerously col...
Victor Winters waits for a bus in Detroit, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Temperatures broke record lows Tuesday in Michigan and residents braced against bitt...
Metro subway riders get on an escalator in the cold at the Eastern Market station in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Frigid air that snapped decade...
A fiery backdrop on a display shows a temperature of two degrees along Lone Oak Road as motorist pass by Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, in Paducah, Ky.  Tempe...
Frost patterns are formed on the ground next to a sewer drain Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, in Paducah, Ky.  Temperatures were expected to rise into the teen...
People bundle up against the cold, Tuesday,  Jan. 7, 2014, in New York. Frigid air that snapped decades-old records will make venturing outside danger...
Ice fog partially shrouds the lighthouse at the entrance to Cleveland harbor Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014.   An official low of -11 degrees in Cleveland brok...
Ice covers rocks and brush on the break wall at Edgewater Park in Cleveland Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. An official low of -11 degrees broke the 130-year-o...
A vehicle drives through a barely visible intersection of Route 33 and Batavia Stafford Townline Road on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014 in Stafford, NY. Danger...
With temperatures at -5 degrees the sun rises over the skyline of Pittsburgh and a frozen Allegheny river Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. A high of 2 degrees i...
With  temperatures below zero, Brenda Williams, 53, of Charleston, braves the cold to get her haircut downtown Charleston, W.Va..  Her glasses had fro...

Deep Freeze

Commuters exit Union Station with wind chills nearing minus 30 Fahrenheit on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, in downtown Chicago. Dangerously cold polar air s...

Deep Freeze

A man walks past a snow encrusted bicycle with wind chills nearing minus 30 Fahrenheit on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, in downtown Chicago. Dangerously col...

APTOPIX Deep Freeze

Victor Winters waits for a bus in Detroit, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Temperatures broke record lows Tuesday in Michigan and residents braced against bitt...

Deep Freeze Washington

Metro subway riders get on an escalator in the cold at the Eastern Market station in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Frigid air that snapped decade...

Deep Freeze

A fiery backdrop on a display shows a temperature of two degrees along Lone Oak Road as motorist pass by Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, in Paducah, Ky. Tempe...

Deep Freeze

Frost patterns are formed on the ground next to a sewer drain Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, in Paducah, Ky. Temperatures were expected to rise into the teen...

Deep Freeze

People bundle up against the cold, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, in New York. Frigid air that snapped decades-old records will make venturing outside danger...

Deep Freeze Ohio

Ice fog partially shrouds the lighthouse at the entrance to Cleveland harbor Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. An official low of -11 degrees in Cleveland brok...

Deep Freeze Ohio

Ice covers rocks and brush on the break wall at Edgewater Park in Cleveland Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. An official low of -11 degrees broke the 130-year-o...

Deep Freeze

A vehicle drives through a barely visible intersection of Route 33 and Batavia Stafford Townline Road on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014 in Stafford, NY. Danger...

Deep Freeze Pennsylvania

With temperatures at -5 degrees the sun rises over the skyline of Pittsburgh and a frozen Allegheny river Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. A high of 2 degrees i...

Deep Freeze

With temperatures below zero, Brenda Williams, 53, of Charleston, braves the cold to get her haircut downtown Charleston, W.Va.. Her glasses had fro...

ATLANTA (AP) -- A deep freeze spread from the U.S. Midwest to the East and South, setting record low temperatures from Boston to Birmingham, and leaving 21 people dead, authorities said. The Midwest and the East experienced temperatures colder than much of Antarctica.

In a phenomenon that forecasters said is actually not all that unusual, all 50 states saw freezing temperatures at some point Tuesday. That included Hawaii, where it was 18 degrees (-8 Celsius) atop Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano.

The big chill started in the Midwest over the weekend, and by Tuesday, it covered about half of the country. In New York City, the high was expected to be 10 degrees (-12 Celsius); in Boston, around 18 degrees (-8 Celsius).

Across the South, records were shattered like icicles. Birmingham, Alabama, dipped to a low of 7 degrees (-14 Celsius), breaking the record of 11 degrees (-11.7 Celsius) set in 1970. Atlanta saw a record low of 6 degrees (-14.5 Celsius). Nashville, Tennessee, got down to 2 degrees (-16.7 Celsius), and Little Rock, Arkansas, fell to 9 degrees (-13 Celsius). It was just 1 degree (-17 Celsius) at Washington Dulles International airport, eclipsing the 1988 mark of 8 degrees (-13 Celsius).

The deep freeze dragged on in the Midwest as well, with the thermometer reaching minus 12 (-24 Celsius) overnight in the Chicago area and 14 below (-25.5 Celsius) in suburban St. Louis. More than 500 passengers were stranded overnight on three Chicago-bound trains that were stopped by blowing and drifting snow in Illinois. Food ran low, but the heat stayed on.

The cold turned deadly as authorities reported at least 21 cold-related deaths across the country since Sunday, including seven in Illinois, and six in Indiana. At least five people died after collapsing while shoveling snow, while several victims were identified as homeless people who either refused shelter or didn't make it to a warm haven soon enough to save themselves from the bitter temperatures.

The worst should be over in the next day or two. Warmer weather -- at least, near or above freezing -- is in the forecast for much of the stricken part of the country.

On Tuesday, many schools and day care centers across the eastern half of the U.S. were closed so that youngsters wouldn't be exposed to the dangerous cold. Officials opened shelters for the homeless and anyone else who needed a warm place.

With the bitter cold slowing baggage handling and aircraft refueling, airlines canceled more than 2,000 flights in the U.S., bringing the four-day total to more than 11,000.

In New Orleans, which reported a low of 26 degrees (-3 Celsius), hardware stores ran out of pipe insulation. A pipe burst in an Atlanta suburb and a main road quickly froze over. In downtown Atlanta, a Ferris wheel near Centennial Olympic Park that opened over the summer to give riders a bird's eye view of the city closed because it was too cold.

Farther south in Pensacola, Florida, a Gulf Coast city better known for its white sand beaches than frost, streets normally filled with joggers, bikers and people walking dogs were deserted early Tuesday. A sign on a bank flashed 19 degrees (-7 Celsius). Patches of ice sparkled in parking lots where puddles froze overnight.

An estimated 190 million people in the U.S. were subjected to the icy blast, caused by a kink in the "polar vortex," the strong winds that surround the North Pole.


Updated : 2021-04-13 10:44 GMT+08:00