Polar vortex brings freezing temps to Midwest

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by CBS News

KREM.com

Posted on January 6, 2014 at 7:39 AM

Updated Monday, Jan 6 at 1:41 PM

Tens of millions of Americans face dangerously cold weather on Monday as a pool of artic air is covering a huge area of the country. The dangerously cold weather comes from a blast of arctic air known as a "polar vortex." 

Many cities expect to break low temperature records and strong winds will make it feel even colder.  Government offices and schools are closed today in several states and Indianapolis has even made it illegal for anyone to drive except for emergencies.

To put things in perspective, CBS News’ correspondent Dean Reynolds said it will colder in Chicago than it is in Anchorage, Alaska on Monday. Temperatures in Chicago are expected to hover around -10 degrees on Monday and with the wind chill, it could feel like -30 to -50.

As the deep freeze took grip of Chicago, city officials pre-emptively closed schools and urged residents to stay indoors.

"These are extremely dangerous conditions and we strongly urge people to heed the warnings and take the necessary precautions to stay safe,” said Gary Schenkel of Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

Illinois, like much of the Midwest, could experience some of the coldest weather it's seen in decades and forecasters say the arctic air could linger through at least Tuesday.

The body numbing temperatures follow Sunday’s wintry blast of almost a foot of snow in some spots and residents spent all day trying to dig out only for it to keep on falling.

Throughout the region, windy, snowy and icy conditions made driving dangerous. A string of crashes and spinouts were reported in northwest Indiana where several counties declared states of emergency.

Still, the extreme weather couldn't keep away die-hard football fans in the frozen tundra of Green Bay as 70,000 spectators braved single digit temperatures to watch the San Francisco 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers in one of the coldest games in NFL history.

If the mercury remains below zero through Tuesday, it will be the first time in nearly 20-years that negative temperatures have taken hold of Chicago for 48-hours straight.

 Some of the worst of that icy weather is in Minnesota and the cold in some areas is described as life-threatening.  Rachel Slavik from CBS News’ Minneapolis station WCCO said that the temperatures were so brutal that on Friday, Governor Mark Dayton cancelled public schools across the state.

Several businesses around Minneapolis and St. Paul have also shut down for the day. Minneapolis parks are closed, and a popular ski hill will remain closed until Tuesday.  Slavik said that to have a business that makes its money on winter outdoor activities shut down is rare and goes to shows the danger of the storm.  

Also, hundreds of thousands of holiday travelers are having a terrible time getting home and already more than 2,500 flights have been cancelled for Monday, which is the fifth straight day of major air disruptions, leaving some travelers stranded for days.

 Overall, more than 12,000 flights were cancelled or delayed as freezing rain hit the Northeast and close to a foot of snow paralyzed the Midwest over the weekend. At New York’s LaGuardia Airport, some travelers were told they would have to wait four more days for a departing flight.

On Sunday morning New York’s JFK Airport was closed for more than two hours, after a Delta jet carrying 35 people landed safely and then slid off an icy runway. There was a similar scene on Saturday at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport where a Spirit Airlines flight departing for Las Vegas skidded off the tarmac during taxi. There were no injuries.

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