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Bitter cold across the world, lowest temperature in US in 2 decades

Jan 07, 2014 09:37 AM IST India India

Chicago: Not just in India but the West too is experiencing an unprecedented winter chill. The mid-west and northeastern parts of United States of America are seeing the lowest temperatures in almost two decades, forcing businesses and schools to close and canceling thousands of flights. At least 4,392 flights were canceled and 3,577 delayed across the US forcing passengers to camp out in airports over the weekend. Most flights were cancelled over the weekend after a blizzard hit Chicago. More than half the flights at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport were canceled as fuel supplies froze, leaving crews unable to fill aircraft tanks. The afternoon temperature in Chicago was minus 12F (minus 24C).

While in United Kingdom, waves up to 27 feet (8.2 meters) high slammed into southwestern coast on Monday, as lashing winds and heavy rain battered parts of the UK and coastal residents braced for another round of flooding. At least seven people have died in a wave of stormy weather that has battered Britain since December, including a man killed when his mobility scooter fell into a river in Oxford, southern England. The monster waves were recorded at Land's End, the southwestern tip of the UK.

Temperatures were 20 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit (11 to 22 degrees Celsius) below average in parts of Montana, North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and Nebraska, according to the National Weather Service. It was colder in Brimson, Minnesota, where the mercury plunged to minus 40 Fahrenheit (minus 40 Celsius) than in Arctic Bay, Canada, where it was minus 31F (minus 35C).

The US cold snap outdid freezing weather in Almaty, Kazakhstan, where it was minus 8F (minus 22C), Mongolia at minus 10F (minus 23C) and Irkutsk, in Siberia, at minus 27F (minus 33C).

Shelters for the homeless were overflowing due to the severe cold described by some meteorologists as the "polar vortex" and dubbed by media as the "polar pig."

The polar vortex, the coldest air in the Northern hemisphere that hovers over the polar region in winter but can be pushed south, was moving toward the East Coast where temperatures were expected to fall into Tuesday.

The coldest temperatures in years and gusty winds were expected as far south as Brownsville, Texas, and central Florida, the National Weather Service said.
The Northeast saw unseasonably mild weather and rain, but authorities warned travelers to expect icy roads and sidewalks on Tuesday.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency, announcing that parts of the New York State Thruway in Western New York would be closed due to extreme winter weather conditions.

At least four weather-related deaths were reported in US, including a 48-year-old Chicago man who had a heart attack while shoveling snow on Sunday and an elderly woman who was found outside her Indianapolis home early Monday.

In Cleveland, Ohio, where the temperature was minus 3F (minus 19C) and was forecast to drop to minus 6F (minus 21C) overnight, homeless shelters were operating at full capacity. Shelter operators had begun to open overflow facilities to accommodate more than 2,000 people who had come seeking warmth.
"There are also going to be people that won't go into the shelters," said Brian Davis, an organizer with Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless. Frostbite can set in within minutes in such low temperatures, according to experts.

The National Weather Service issued warnings for life-threatening wind chills in western and central North Dakota, with temperatures as low as minus 60F (minus 51C).

In oil fields from Texas to North Dakota and Canada, the severe cold threatened to disrupt traffic, strand wells and interrupt drilling and fracking operations. The severe cold weather sweeping across the mid-United States is threatening to curtail booming oil production.

Output in North Dakota, the second-largest oil producing state, usually ebbs in winter as producers scale back on drilling and well completion services such as fracking, which pumps a slurry of water, sand and chemicals into wells.

But analysts are bracing for a possibly worse than usual impact on output from the state, that could affect operations of companies such as Continental Resources, Marathon Oil and Hess Energy.

"It is so cold that they cannot produce at full capacity, if at all. That should support prices," said Carsten Fritsch, senior oil analyst at Commerzbank in Frankfurt.

It also disrupted grain and livestock shipments throughout the farm belt, curbed meat production at several packing plants and threatened to damage the dormant wheat crop.

"The fuel and glycol supplies are frozen at (Chicago O'Hare) and other airports in the Midwest and Northeast," said Andrea Huguely, a spokeswoman for American Airlines Group. "We are unable to pump fuel and or de-ice."

The bitter cold combined with blowing snow was complicating rail traffic as well. Union Pacific, one of the largest railroads and a chief mover of grains, chemicals, coal and automotive parts, warned customers on Monday that the weather was causing delays up to 48 hours across Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin.

(With additional inputs from agencies)