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Polar vortex puts millions at risk from brutally cold weather across US

 
Severe Weather in U.S.

Authorities have warned that exposed flesh can freeze in minutes. Photograph: Elizabeth Flores/AP

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Polar vortex puts millions at risk from brutally cold weather across US” was written by Ed Pilkington in New York, for The Guardian on Monday 6th January 2014 17.25 UTC

Millions of Americans from Montana down to as far south as Alabama are being warned that their lives are at risk if they venture out for any length of time into brutally cold conditions that are driving temperatures to their lowest in 20 years.

Severe weather warnings from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for Minnesota and Wisconsin said that wind chills caused by gusts of up to 30 mph were causing temperatures to plummet to between -37C (-35F) and -46C (-50F). “Exposed flesh will freeze and cause frost bite in only five minutes,” the warning observed, adding that such dangerous conditions were likely to last until at least Tuesday afternoon.

Twenty six states continue to be under federal warnings for severe wind chills as bitterly cold air is swept down from the Arctic, with Montana recording a wind chill of -52C (-61F). The severe weather has already caused havoc in the Northern Plains and is expected to reach the north-east on Tuesday, extending disruption to airports and travellers. More than 3,000 flights were cancelled on Monday and Chicago’s O’Hare International airport has been particularly badly affected.

Effects of Polar Vortex in U.S.

The Chicago skyline sits as a backdrop as fog drifts across Monroe Harbour with temperatures well below zero and wind chills expected to reach 40 to 50 below. Photograph: Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

As a sign of the extraordinary nature of the weather pattern, the federal government has even issued a wind chill warning for Florida. It said that the very cold Arctic air mass would drive temperatures in the north of the state below zero fahrenheit.

Local governments in states across the country were taking exceptional measures to protect their populations. Every school in Minnesota was closed on Monday – the first such blanket precaution in the state in 17 years. Children were also kept away from school in Chicago, dubbed for the duration “Chiberia”.

Severe Weather in U.S.

Children in Grand Blanc, Michigan, play in the snow. Photograph: Michelle Tessier/AP

In Indianapolis, where thousands were struggling without power, mayor Greg Ballard raised a travel warning to red making it illegal to use the roads unless for emergencies. He used his Twitter feed to inform residents how to find shelter.

Effects of Polar Vortex in U.S.

A man clears snow from his car in Indianapolis. A red travel warning has since been imposed in the city making it illegal to use the roads except for emergencies. Photograph: Reuters

 

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