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34 states under wind chill alerts as arctic blast swoops across nation

Jan. 6, 2014 at 12:01 PM   |   Comments

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CHICAGO, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- Thirty-four states were under wind chill alerts Monday as a record-breaking blast of arctic air swooped down on the United States.

A record-setting minus 16 degrees was recorded in Chicago while in Minnesota morning temperatures were in the minus 20s.

Thousands of flights across the country were delayed or canceled, FlightAware.com reported. At midmorning, there were 2,471 delays and 3,282 cancellations.

Northern Indiana was virtually closed to travel with stretches of Interstates 94 and 65 closed in both directions, the Chicago Tribune reported. Indiana state police said driving was hazardous on almost every major road.

Thousands of customers in the Indianapolis area were without power Monday, AccuWeather.com reported, in bitter cold temperatures that will stay below zero until Tuesday.

Chicago's transit systems also was experiencing problems, with nine of Metra's 10 commuter rail lines reporting delays of 15 to 70 minutes. The South Shore Indiana Commuter Rail system was suspended entirely.

Multiple school systems throughout the United States were closed, as were many public and private colleges, houses of worship, zoos and some businesses, including ski resorts.

In Duluth, Minn., the city said snow-removal operations planned for Tuesday in the city's downtown were postponed because of the cold weather, the Duluth News Tribune reported.

The city said the conditions would expose city crews to dangerous temperatures and wind chills. At midmorning, the temperature was minus-20.

The National Weather Service in Minneapolis said in its wind chill advisory Monday the "historic and life-threatening cold outbreak" would remain in Minnesota and Wisconsin through Tuesday.

"The coldest air mass since 1996 will continue to bring dangerous wind chills into Tuesday," the NWS advisory said, noting that exposed flesh will freeze in 10 minutes with wind chills of 35 below zero.

During the past week, at least 13 people have died of weather-related causes -- 11 in highway accidents, one from hypothermia and one, a woman with Alzheimer's disease, who wandered away from her home and was found dead in a wooded area about 100 yards away, CNN reported.

In Chanhassen, Minn., three restaurants closed Sunday because of a water main break that was repaired several hours later, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis reported.

Four-hundred to 500 residents of an apartment complex in Rogers, northwest of Minneapolis, fled their apartments into the below-zero outdoors after a propane heater pressed into service exploded, police said. The cause of the explosion wasn't known and the state Fire Marshal's Office and the Office of Pipeline Safety were investigating.

After the initial blast, fireballs lit the sky intermittently for 35 to 40 minutes until authorities found and closed the fuel valve, the Star Tribune said.

AccuWeather.com also reported airports in Bloomington and Terre Haute, Ind., were closed.

In Maine, freezing rain is causing hazardous driving conditions in some areas and speeds have been reduced to 45 mph.

The icebox conditions in the Midwest will work their way east Tuesday, CNN said. New York, which was forecast to reach 50 degrees Monday, could tumble to as low as minus 7 Tuesday.

The extreme temperatures and blustery winds produced by the arctic cyclone created dangerously cold wind chills as far south as central Florida and Brownsville, Texas, NWS said.

Poor visibility from blowing snow trapped the Southern Illinois University men's basketball team, returning home from a 66-48 loss to Illinois State, on the side of Interstate 57 late Sunday, SIU Athletic Director Mario Moccia said.

The bus driver pulled off the highway to get out of the way of traffic until visibility improved, but when the driver tried to get back on the road, the bus had no traction and was stuck, CNN reported.

"They're just hanging out, they're watching movies," Moccia told CNN late Sunday night.

He said the bus had plenty of fuel, heat and food, and the team was waiting for a tow truck.

Players later tweeted they would be spending the night in a church in Tuscola, Ill.

"Somehow this eventful day/night has led to our team sleeping on the floor of a church in Tuscola. What a journey it has been," Dawson Verhines tweeted.

© 2014 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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