Authorities urged Americans to stay indoors and stock up on food after a fierce winter storm killed 11 people and forecasters said the Arctic blast could bring record low temperatures.
There was no sign of respite on Saturday from the brutal chill that has struck since the start of this year in parts of the northeastern US and Canada, prompting New York and New Jersey to declare a state of emergency.
Following heavy snowfall on Thursday, one of the coldest Arctic outbreaks in the past two decades is set to plunge the US’ Midwest close to record-cold conditions.
Chicago could today see some of its most bracing weather ever, with temperatures of about minus-23°C, forecasters said.
Gusty winds could bring what forecasters at the National Weather Service called “very dangerous levels” of wind chill.
“Incredibly, it may feel as cold as minus-50° to minus-60° [Fahrenheit] on Sunday night over sections of the north-central states with the frigid air remaining in place into early next week,” it said.
In such conditions, exposed skin would suffer frostbite in as little as five minutes, forecasters said.
Authorities have urged people in the worst-hit areas to spend the first weekend of the new year at home for their own safety and to allow rescue and clean-up teams to get to work as quickly as possible.
“Chicagoans are a hearty bunch,” Chicago Department of Family and Support Services spokesman Matt Smith said.
“But when temperatures get as cold as they are predicted, you want to start thinking out things in advance,” the Chicago Tribune quoted him as saying, adding that the department had advised people stay indoors and ensure they have medical supplies and food.
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton announced schools will be closed today “to protect all our children from the dangerously cold temperatures.”
The storm has been the first big test for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who only took up his job on Wednesday last week.
“If you want safe, clear streets, stay home,” he said on Friday.
Thousands of domestic and international flights have been canceled or delayed in several US cities including at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport and in Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia, while thousands of kilometers of roads were also snarled.