Sunday, January 18, 2009

Shocking cold wave drops temps to 40 below zero

Shocking cold wave drops temps to 40 below zero
Jan 14, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Temperatures crashed to Arctic levels Tuesday as a severe cold wave rolled across the upper Midwest on the heels of yet another snowstorm, closing schools and making most people think twice before going outside. 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.

Thermometers read single digits early in the day as far south as Kansas and Missouri, where some areas warmed only into the teens by midday.

The ice and snow that glazed pavement was blamed for numerous traffic accidents from Minnesota to Indiana, 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. His son reported him missing and said he was prone to sleepwalking, and deputies followed footprints in the snow to find the man about 190 yards from his house, Sawyer County Chief Deputy Tim Zeigle said.

Some Minnesotans took it as just another winter day, even in the state's extreme northwest corner where thermometers bottomed out at 38 degrees below zero at the town of Hallock and the National Weather Service said the wind chill was a shocking 58 below.

"It's really not so bad," Robert Cameron, 75, said as he and several friends gathered for morning coffee at the Cenex service station in Hallock. "We've got clothing that goes with the weather. ... We're ready and rolling, no matter what."

"It's so beautiful. There's not a cloud in the sky," said Keith Anderson, 66. But he said that's not stopping him from skipping town at the end of the week to spend a couple of months in Nevada and Arizona.

Outside, one of the station's gas pumps froze up at least once, and assistant manager Terrie Franks had to go out to apply deicer spray.

"You definitely have to have gloves on because touching the cold metal - your hands are frozen," Franks said by telephone.

The weather service warned that exposed flesh can freeze in 10 minutes when the wind chill is 40 degrees below zero or colder.

At about 8 a.m., temperatures 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.

Two northern Minnesota ski areas, Spirit Mountain in Duluth and Giants Ridge near Biwabik, announced they would close for a second straight day Wednesday because of the dangerously low windchill.

In neighboring North Dakota, Grand Forks dropped to a record low of 37 below zero Tuesday morning, lopping six degrees off the old record set in 1979, the National Weather Service said.

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.

AAA Michigan responded to 1,450 motorists across the state Tuesday morning, mostly to assist with dead batteries, spinouts and minor accidents after an early snowfall, said spokeswoman Nancy Cain.

The leading edge of the cold air was expected to strike the Northeast, mid-Atlantic and South late Tuesday and Wednesday. And meteorologists warned that a second wave could drop temperatures into the single digits Thursday and Friday in the mid-Atlantic region.

The storm that blew through the upper Midwest on Monday dropped 6 inches of snow on Minot, N.D., on top of about a foot that fell late last week, and Bismarck collected 4 inches. Bismarck, Fargo and Grand Forks all broke snow records for December, each with more than 30 inches. They were outdone by Madison, Wis., which accumulated a record 40 inches for the month, the weather service said Tuesday.

Road departments have had little time to clear away the snow between storms, and North Dakota officials said snowplows would be pulled off the roads Tuesday night in the central and western parts of the state because of strong winds.

"Four-wheel drives are useless - people are just snowed in," said Rhonda Woodhams, office manager for Williams County, N.D. "People are calling in saying they're out of milk and diapers for their kids, or they have doctor appointments they need to get to. We're doing our best. And we don't need no more snow."

"It's like a sea of whiteness; people can't see the road," said Rebecca Arndt, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation in Mankato. "When the white fluffy stuff starts to blow, it is not pretty."

What was left of that snowstorm was blowing eastward along the Great Lakes, and the weather service posted winter storm warnings Tuesday for parts of Michigan, northern Indiana and Ohio's northwest corner. Up to 11 inches of new snow was possible in Detroit.

Winter weather advisories were in effect from North Dakota to Ohio and northeast into northern New England.
Associated Press writers Roger Petterson in New York and James MacPherson in Bismarck, N.D., contributed to this report.

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