Cold Air Drives Temperatures Lower
Undated (AP) _ Temperatures fell below zero across the Plains and Midwest and wind gusting to 30 mph made it feel as cold as 60 below zero in places Tuesday, forcing the homeless to seek shelter and driving demand for heat and electricity to record levels.
″Some areas in the East Coast are saying this is going to be the coldest since ’78. It’s the coldest I’ve seen it in the last three years,″ said Dan McCarthy, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Severe Storms Center in Kansas City, Mo.
Since Saturday, at least 10 deaths have been blamed on the weather.
The cold air was being pumped southward by the clockwise circulation around a strong high pressure system over the central part of the nation, said Pete Reynolds, another meteorologist at the Severe Storms Center.
In addition, the jet stream, the band of air flowing west to east at more than 100 mph at an altitude of around 25,000 feet, was positioned over the southern part of the nation and that ″kind of opens the door for all of this cold air,″ Reynolds said.
Temperatures plunged below zero across Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and eastward across parts of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. The lowest temperature in the continental United States on Tuesday morning was 28 below zero in Huron, S.D., and Warroad, Minn., slightly above Monday’s low of 31 below in West Yellowstone, Mont. Valentine, Neb., touched 23 below. South Bend, Ind., hit a record 9 degrees below zero, and Battle Creek, Mich., had a record low of 8 below zero.
However, with wind gusting to 30 mph, it felt as cold as 64 below zero at Hibbing, Minn., and Ironwood, Mich., and 59 below at Duluth, Minn.
Homeless people jammed shelters in cities including Chicago, Detroit, New York, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, Denver, Des Moines, Minneapolis and Indianapolis. In Dallas, the Salvation Army planned to distribute sleeping bags to those who refused to go to crowded shelters.
″People will start coming out of the woodwork and be willing to surrender some privacy, and adherence to some rules, in exchange for survival,″ said Kent Beittel, director of the Open Shelter in Columbus, Ohio.
The 900-bed Dallas Life Foundation hasn’t had a full house yet this winter, said the Rev. Ray Bailey, but ″I expect this week we’ll fill up.″
On Chicago’s South Side, with temperatures well below zero, an apartment building housing 17 families has had no heat since last week when Peoples Gas shut off service because an illegal electrical hookup ″represents a definite safety hazard,″ said utility spokeswoman Mary Jo Bohr. The Rev. Paul Hall invited the families to stay at his boys club nearby.
On Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the temperature at 5:30 a.m. was 25 below zero in Gogebic County and the opening of schools was delayed for two hours to allow buses and school buildings to warm up, said sheriff’s Deputy Jay Kangas.
The cold extended into Texas, with only extreme southerly Texas expected to escape its effects. Lows in the state were mostly in the 30s, with 20s in the Panhandle.
Commonwealth Edison Co. in Chicago said it set a record high for winter electricity usage between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Monday with 12,258,000 kilowatts.
″People are using greater amounts of electricity for furnace motors, electric heat and heat pumps,″ said spokesman Ron Russell.
Iowa Power, which serves 239,000 customers in central and southwest Iowa, said it appeared to have met or exceeded an electrical usage record set in 1983. Consumers Power Co. in Michigan reported record demand Monday for both electricity and natural gas.
Cold wind picked up moisture from the Great Lakes and dropped it over land as ″lake effect″ snow on the lakes’ leeward shores. A heavy snow warning was posted for Ohio’s Lake Erie shore east of Cleveland, with 10 to 16 inches of snow expected. Along Lake Michigan, high wind driving already fallen snow made if difficult to tell if new snow was falling in Michigan’s Benzie County, said sheriff’s office worker Doris Rider.
Two people died in traffic accidents on icy roads in Connecticut and Utah, while at least three exposure deaths were blamed on the cold in Illinois and a fisherman died off the northern California coast when his boat capsized in storm-tossed seas.
An unidentified homeless man was found dead in Washington, D.C., apparently of exposure. One man was found dead Tuesday in Denver in a construction shed where he apparently was overcome by fumes from a malfunctioning propane heater. Also, a 94-year-old Hamilton, Ohio, man died of hypothermia in an unheated three-room house Tuesday, and a 36-year-old man apparently froze to death in Charleston, W.Va., after he was knocked unconscious in a fall and lay unconscious outdoors nearly three hours, authorities said.