2018 starts with record cold in the Midwest
DES MOINES, IA (AP) — Bone-chilling cold gripped the middle of the U.S. as 2018 began Monday, breaking a low temperature record, icing some New Year's celebrations and leading to at least two deaths attributed to exposure to the elements.
The National Weather Service issued wind chill advisories covering a vast area from South Texas all the way to Canada and from Montana and Wyoming in the west through New England to the northern tip of Maine.
Dangerously low temperatures enveloped eight Midwest states including parts of Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and Nebraska along with nearly all of Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota.
The arctic blast was blamed for freezing a water tower in Iowa, halting a ferry service in New York and even trapping a swan in a Virginia pond.
At the same time, a heatwave swept into the country's northernmost state: Anchorage, Alaska, tied a record high on Tuesday of 44 degrees — at the same time Jacksonville, Florida, was a mere 38 degrees.
The weather service said a temperature of 15 below zero was recorded in Omaha before midnight Sunday, breaking a record low dating back to 1884, and the temperature was still dropping early New Year's Day. That reading did not include the wind chill effect — which could hit negative 40 degrees, according to forecasters.
Omaha officials cited the forecast last week in postponing the 18th annual New Year's Eve Fireworks Spectacular that draws around 30,000 people.
It was even colder in Des Moines early Monday at 20 below zero and wind chill dipping to 31 below zero (-35 Celsius). Des Moines city officials had closed a downtown outdoor ice skating plaza and said it won't reopen until the city emerges from sub-zero temperatures.
The wind chill dipped to 36 below zero (-38 Celsius) in Duluth, Minnesota, a city known for its bitter cold winters. Steam rose up from Lake Superior as a ship moved through the harbor where ice was forming from the bitter cold.
Bitterly cold temperatures also are spreading across the Deep South, a region more accustomed to brief bursts of arctic air than night after night below zero. Frozen pipes and dead car batteries were concerns from Louisiana to Georgia as overnight temperatures in the teens were predicted across the region by Monday night.
An Indianapolis woman was in critical condition after she became confused in the snow and ice and turned her vehicle the wrong direction, driving 150 feet on a retention pond before her vehicle fell through the ice, according to WISH TV. She managed to make an emergency call but the phone went dead when the ice cracked.
The cold has been blamed in at least 12 deaths in the past week. Police in St. Louis said a 54-year-old homeless man found dead in a trash bin Monday evening apparently froze to death as the temperature dropped to negative 6 degrees (-21 Celsius).
The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's office said two bodies found on Sunday showed signs of hypothermia. They included a man in his 50s found on the ground in an alley and a 34-year-old man. Autopsies are being performed on both men.
Two other suspected cold-related deaths were reported, including a 27-year-old woman whose body was found Monday evening on the shore of Lake Winnebago, and a 57-year-old man who was found dead Sunday in a parking structure in Madison.
Along the East Coast, the cold was expected to worsen behind a winter storm brewing in the Atlantic and Caribbean. Forecasters don't think the storm will hit the coast, but parts of the Northeast will likely get sustained high winds, waves and some snow, forecasters said. And behind that storm is even colder weather than what the East Coast is feeling now.
"For the Northeast, this weekend might be the coldest of the coldest with the storm," said Jason Furtado, a University of Oklahoma meteorology professor. "We could be ending (the cold snap) with a big hurrah."