Above image by Anton Oparin / Shutterstock.com
Almost two thirds of the US has been affected by a polar vortex with temperatures plummeting far below freezing, public transport grinding to a halt, public schools closing, and more than a dozen fatalities.
In Duluth, Minnesota, chilling winds knocked air temperature down to a hypothermic 55 below. People have been told to stay indoors as frostbite injuries occur after only a few minutes outside.
MN Governor Mark Dayton ordered all state-run schools to close their doors in the interest of public health and safety.
“I have made this decision to protect all our children from the dangerously cold temperatures,” he said and issued a “Particularly Dangerous Situation” warning, which is normally reserved for tornados, across the state.
Schools have also been shut in other parts of the country, including Chicago, parts of Wisconsin, Michigan, even as far south as Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Further south, residents of Georgia and Alabama have had to cope with sub-zero temperatures.
The blizzard is now sweeping further east and according to the US National Weather Service (NWS), as many as 200 million people could be affected if the big freeze reaches New England.
Lead forecaster, Brian Korty, at the Weather Prediction Center, a part of NWS, said the country was hit with coldest temperatures in the last 20 years: “It is hitting everywhere east of the Rockies.”
More than 3,000 flights have been cancelled across the country as airports find it increasingly difficult to deal with a heavy mix of snow and ice. At John F. Kennedy International Airport, a Delta flight skidded off the runway and into snow, prompting the airport to shut down all operations for roughly two hours.
New York State is bracing for an arctic blast that could bring up to three feet of snow and wind chills of 40 degrees minus, especially precarious are Buffalo and other western parts of the state.
“All New Yorkers in the area should exercise extreme caution if they have to leave their homes of travel anywhere,” NY Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.
So far, this rare winter chill has claimed 16 lives and authorities fear this number could rise unless precautions are taken and warnings heeded. The Department of Homeless Services has doubled their amount of people out in the street to aid those who find themselves exposed to the cold.