Bone-chilling blasts of Arctic air caused temperatures to plummet across large swathes of midwestern and northeastern US on Wednesday, in the coldest wave so far this winter.
Temperatures dropped to between minus 27°C and minus 40°C in several states such as Minnesota, North Dakota and Illinois, which were snow-bound and battered by powerful gusts.
The severe cold was unlikely to hamper the inauguration on Tuesday of Barack Obama as the 44th US president. Forecasters said they expected temperatures to be in the range of 1°C to 2°C in Washington that day.
But the current cold wave was expected to continue spreading across the Midwest and the Northeast and could even affect the Gulf Coast.
Grand Forks, North Dakota, was experiencing its coldest spell since 1979, freezing at minus 38°C, the National Weather Service said.
In cities across the Midwest, snow and ice wreaked havoc, shutting down schools and several businesses and making it impossible to drive.
Doctors recommended that people stay indoors.
“Your ears, nose, anything exposed can really freeze quickly and it can freeze within three minutes,” Rahul Khare of Northwestern Memorial Hospital told CBS News.
In New York City, temperatures were expected to sink below minus 12°C over the next two days, and meteorologists forecast the coldest weather for the city in four years.
Chicago residents were enduring minus 18°C weather and wind chills made it feel more like minus 40°C.