A woman braces against the wind and cold as she walks in
Montreal. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
A deadly blast of arctic air shattered decades-old
temperature records as it enveloped the eastern United States,
cancelling thousands of flights, driving energy prices higher
and overwhelming shelters for homeless people.
New York's Central Park hit a record low temperature for the
date - minus 16 Celsius - but with winds gusting to 51 kph
conditions felt far colder, the National Weather Service
Authorities have put about half of the United States under a
wind chill warning or cold weather advisory, the icy
conditions snarling air, road and rail travel. Temperatures
were expected to be 14-19 degrees Celsius below normal from
the Midwest to the Southeast, the National Weather Service
In New York and Washington, D.C. homeless shelters and other
public buildings took in people who were freezing outside.
"My hands were frozen like ice picks. I came in here to get
my hands warm, I put them under the hot water here," said
Mike Smith, a 48-year-old homeless man who had been dozing in
the lobby of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in
Six deaths have been reported across the country since a
polar air mass swept over North America over the weekend,
producing the coldest temperatures in two decades.
Major U.S. cities were in the grip of temperatures well below
freezing, with Chicago seeing temperatures of minus 20
degrees C, Detroit minus 21C, Pittsburgh minus 17C and Boston
At New York's Bowery Mission homeless shelter, the 80-bed
dormitory was at full capacity on Monday night and 179 other
people slept in the chapel and cafeteria, officials said.
"We had our staff go out to walk the neighborhood to make
sure everyone was aware they could come in for the night,"
said James Winan, a chief development officer at the Bowery
Washington, D.C., officials opened libraries, recreation
centers and other public spaces for people to warm themselves
from temperatures that fell to minus 14 Celsius.
In the normally mild south, Atlanta recorded its coldest
weather on this date in 44 years, when the temperature
dropped to minus 14 degrees Celsius, while temperatures in
northern Florida also briefly dropped below freezing, though
the state's citrus crop was unharmed, according to a major
Among the deaths reported was a 51-year-old homeless man in
Columbus, Georgia, whose body was found in an empty lot after
spending the night outdoors. Four cold and storm-related
deaths were reported around Chicago and an elderly woman was
found dead outside her Indianapolis home early Monday.
After running into impassable snow and ice, three
Chicago-bound Amtrak trains came to a halt Monday afternoon,
stranding more than 500 passengers overnight. They had heat,
water, lights and toilet facilities, according to Amtrak.
Passengers on two trains, which spent the night on the tracks
in Bureau County, Illinois were being transported to Chicago
by chartered bus, an Amtrak spokesman said.
The deep freeze disrupted many Americans' morning commutes on
Tuesday with icy or closed roads and flight delays. Some
2,216 U.S. flights canceled and roughly 1,952 delayed,
according to FlightAware.com, which tracks airline activity.
Hardest hit were travellers who had booked trips on JetBlue
Airways Corp, which on Monday halted its flights at New
York's three major airports and Boston Logan International
Airport overnight to allow its crews to rest after five days
of trying to recover from snow- and cold-related delays. The
carried resumed flights by midday on Tuesday.
In the Midwest, airlines scrambled to catch up a day after
killer cold caused fuel supplies to freeze solid, leading to
extensive flight cancellations, particularly at Chicago
O'Hare International Airport.
American Airlines put its fueling pumper and tanker trucks in
a hangar to keep them from freezing, said spokeswoman Mary
Frances Fagan. The carrier cancelled 190 flights at O'Hare
for Tuesday, compared with nearly 380 flights canceled on
"This morning's fueling is slow but consistent," Fagan said.
Wholesale electricity prices in the central and eastern
United States spiked far above their normal seasonal level as
homes and businesses needed to use more energy to warm
buildings. Power demand in Texas hit a new winter record.
Minneapolis public schools were to be closed for a second day
on Tuesday "due to extremely cold temperatures," after
Governor Mark Dayton declared a state of emergency on Monday.
The cold took some visitors to New York by surprise.
"It is unbearable. We arrived yesterday and came out just to
shop for more clothes," said Daniel Bounomie, a 25-year-old
Brazilian tourist who was walking through Times Square arm in
arm with his shivering sister, wearing the same thin hooded
sweatshirt he arrived in.
Outside Boston, the cold had 27-year-old plumber's assistant
Paul Tonnessen scrambling from job to job, repairing pipes
that had burst due to freezing.
"Pipes will freeze, heat goes out. You've got to go. You
can't leave people without heat on days like today," he said.