Snowstorms, frigid temperatures blast nation
Published: Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 7:38 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 7:38 a.m.
MINNEAPOLIS — The National Weather Service said the wind chill made it feel like minus 58 degrees, but that didn't stop Robert Cameron and Keith Anderson from venturing out.
They left their homes in the far northwestern Minnesota city of Hallock on Tuesday to meet a group of friends for a morning coffee at a service station.
"It's really not so bad," said Cameron, 75.
"It's so beautiful," added Anderson, 66.
Temperatures in the minus double-digits were not uncommon Tuesday as a snow storm followed by a severe cold wave rolled across the upper Midwest and took aim at the East.
Early Wednesday, the cold front swept into New York, sending temperatures falling from the 30s a day before to single digits or below zero. It hit 8 below in Massena, on the St. Lawrence River in northern New York, with the wind chill making it feel like minus 25 degrees.
In Michigan, temperatures Wednesday morning ranged from minus 17 at Ironwood in the western Upper Peninsula to 10 degrees in the southwestern Lower Peninsula and 12 on Beaver Island. Ironwood earlier recorded a temperature of minus 23.
The ice and snow that glazed pavements was blamed for numerous traffic accidents from Minnesota to Indiana on Tuesday, where police said a truck overturned and spilled 43,000 pounds of cheese, closing a busy highway ramp during the night in the Gary area.
The bitter cold snap was responsible for at least one death Tuesday. A 51-year-old man in northern Wisconsin died from exposure after wandering from his Hayward home early Tuesday, authorities said. Deputies followed the tracks of his bare feet in the snow to find him.
The falling temperatures — wind chills made it feel like 50 below zero in the far north of Wisconsin — kept towing and auto repair companies across the state busy, as well as public works crews dealing with frozen pipes and water mains.
"We're working basically 24 hours a day with broken mains," said Dave Goldapp with Milwaukee Public Works, adding that more breaks could be expected as temperatures get colder.
The leading edge of the cold air was expected to strike the Northeast, mid-Atlantic and South by Wednesday and Thursday.
Up to 4 inches of snow was forecast for Chicago and the weather service warned Ohio residents to expect both snow coming down at more than an inch an hour and temperatures to drop to minus 24 degrees.
That would be practically balmy compared to the mercury in North Dakota, where Grand Forks dropped to a record low of 37 below zero Tuesday, lopping six degrees off the old record set in 1979.
Schools were closed because of the cold as far south as Iowa, and authorities in Grand Rapids, Mich., issued an extreme cold weather alert and went out urging the homeless to seek shelter.
The weather service warned that exposed flesh can freeze in 10 minutes when the wind chill is 40 degrees below zero or colder.
Temperatures in Minnesota were minus 40 in International Falls and minus 35 in Roseau. Farther south, Minneapolis hit 18 below zero with a wind chill of 32 below and black ice was blamed for numerous accidents.
Back in Hallock, Mark Johnson, vice president of Johnson Oil Co., said the extreme cold isn't too bad, and once it gets to a certain point, the degrees don't matter. For example, he said, 38 degrees below zero isn't much different than 24 degrees below zero.
"We're kind of acclimated to it up here up in this country," he said. "Each year, sometime during the winter, it's going to get to this point. Just as long as it doesn't stay like this for a whole month, you can deal with the day-to-day getting through it."
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