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Arctic ‘polar vortex’ brings sub-zero temperatures to parts of US

January 7, 2014 at 1:22 am | News Desk

A blast of Arctic air described as a ‘”dangerous cold” is gripping the mid-section of the United States, forcing businesses and schools to close and causing widespread airline delays and hazardous driving conditions.

Shelters for the homeless were overwhelmed and oil production could come to a standstill as the severe cold, described by some meteorologists as the “polar vortex” and dubbed by media as the “polar pig,” brought temperatures below -18 degrees Celsius.

Temperatures were 11 to 22C below average in parts of Montana, North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and Nebraska, according to the National Weather Service.

The Arctic air was moving toward the east coast where temperatures were expected to fall throughout the day to about -18C. The coldest temperatures in years were expected in southern states.

“Cold temperatures and gusty winds associated with an arctic air mass will continue dangerously cold wind chills as far south as Brownsville, Texas and central Florida,” the National Weather Service said.

”It’s just a dangerous cold,” National Weather Service meteorologist Butch Dye said.

The cold threatened to disrupt oil production, particularly in North Dakota, which could push fuel prices higher, analysts said. It also stalled shipments of grain and livestock and posed a threat to the dormant winter wheat crop.

In Cleveland, Ohio, where the temperature was -14C and was forecast to drop to minus -22C 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 organiser with Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless. Frostbite can set in within minutes at temperatures as low as Cleveland was experiencing, 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 -51C.

The frigid temperatures in the US mirrored or outdid those in such parts of the world as Almaty, Kazakhstan where it was -20C; Mongolia, where temperatures reached -23C and Irkutsk, in Siberia, where it was -33C

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