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US braces for dangerous Arctic blast

January 06, 2014 15:39 IST

US braces for dangerous Arctic blast

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A rare "polar vortex" on Monday descended into much of the United States, pummelling parts of the country with a dangerous cold that could break decades-old records with wind chill warnings stretching from Montana to Alabama.

The northeastern United States and parts of Canada have endured heavy snow and deadly sub-zero conditions since the start of the year, but the deep freeze is now moving through the midwestern United States and threatening usually balmy areas further south like Tennessee.

The wind chill from the rare "polar vortex" could make it feel as cold as -60 Fahrenheit (-51 Celsius) in places, weather forecasters say, prompting authorities in several towns and cities to issue warnings that people should stay indoors and stock up on food.

Exposed skin could suffer frostbite in as little as five minutes in such conditions, experts warn.

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Image: A woman walks through a cold and snow covered Times Square following a snow storm that left up to 8 inches of snow
Photographs: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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US braces for dangerous Arctic blast

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According to NASA research, a polar vortex is a large cyclone that's located near one or both of the planet's geographical poles, and are low-pressure areas that strengthen in the winter. Normally, they remain circulating around the Arctic or Antarctic circles.

When the polar vortex is weak, its patterns come down to the Earth's surface. NASA researchers and other meteorologists years ago noted a correlation between a weak vortex and deep cold occurring in many cities in the Northern Hemisphere.

In any case, it's rare that the polar vortex pushes the North Pole's cold air into the United States, but on Sunday, it will drive temperatures down below sub-zero levels and make things feel even colder.

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Image: A taxi cab drives into a pile of snow on East End Ave. near E. 86th St. after an overnight storm dropped up to 7 inches of snow
Photographs: Yana Paskova/Getty Images

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US braces for dangerous Arctic blast

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More than 1,900 flights were cancelled as of early Monday, including almost half the flights at Chicago O'Hare International Airport and more than half at Cleveland Hopkins, said flight-tracking website flightaware.com, which tracks cancellations due to weather, mechanical and other problems.

About 3,700 flights were cancelled Sunday, leading to disruptions at scores of airports, including in Philadelphia, Indianapolis, St Louis, Detroit, Newark, N.J., and New York's KennedyInternationalAirport.

Schools as far south as WashingtonDC were closed on Friday. Many government offices also shut down. Public schools are to remain closed on Monday in a number of cities, and the entire state of Minnesota. In Nashville, Tennessee schools will be shut until Wednesday.

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Image: Diego Ramos, who is homeless and lives under nearby building scaffolding, pauses as he clears a sidewalk of snow in lower Manhattan following a snow storm that left up to eight inches of snow
Photographs: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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US braces for dangerous Arctic blast

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Amtrak said the severe weather would limit service to and from Chicago, a major hub. Alternate passenger transportation will not be available, the intercity train service said.

As much of the country stocks up on food and hunkers down for the cold, meteorologists across the country are keeping their eyes peeled for potential record-breaking temperatures to register this weekend.

As Weather Bell meteorologist Ryan Maue put it, “If you’re under 40, you’ve not seen this stuff before,” reports the Associated Press.

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Image: A police vehicle drives through a flooded street during a winter nor'easter snow storm in Scituate, Massachusetts
Photographs: Dominick Reuter/Reuters

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US braces for dangerous Arctic blast

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As if the polar vortex isn't bad enough, parts of the central Midwest are also expecting up to a foot of snow from a new storm, reports The Weather Channel.

The new storm, which brought snow to the Rockies on Saturday, will head east through early Sunday, with low pressure developing over the Southern Plains and heading to the eastern Great Lakes.

This means widespread accumulating snow is coming to Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, and lower Michigan through Sunday, with the National Weather Service issuing winter storm warnings before the polar vortex is to strike.

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Image: A man helps a woman carry a child in a stroller through a snow covered crosswalk in midtown Manhattan in New York City
Photographs: Mike Segar/Reuters

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US braces for dangerous Arctic blast

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Authorities are warning people that they could face issues like cars that won't start and flooded roads that quickly ice over caused by water pipes that freeze and burst.

Thousands of flights out of major airports like Chicago O'Hare International and New York's John F Kennedy were delayed or cancelled yesterday due to weather-related problems.

At O'Hare, one of the country's busiest airports, officials said that more than 1,300 flights were cancelled.

The states of Minnesota and North Dakota were expected to experience the worst weather.

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Image: A woman walks down Exeter Street in Boston
Photographs: Darren McCollester/Getty Images

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