Monday’s bitterly cold temperatures broke records in Chicago, which set a record for the date at minus minus 27 degree Celsius, and Fort Wayne, Indiana, where the mercury fell to 25 below C. Records also fell in Oklahoma and Texas, and wind chills across the region were minus 40 degree Celsius and colder.
Officials in states like Indiana already struggling with high winds and more than 30 centimetres of snow urged residents to stay home if they could.
“The cold is the real killer here,” Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard said on Monday as he asked schools and businesses to remain closed another day. “In 10 minutes you could be dead without the proper clothes.”
The polar air will next invade the East and South today, bringing with it the prospect of more records falling. Minus 17 to minus 13 C were expected in Georgia and Alabama, and wind chill warnings stretched as far south as Florida, with forecasts calling for minus 23 C in Atlanta and minus 24 C in Baltimore. Forecasters said some 187 million people in all could feel the effects of the “polar vortex” by the time it spreads across the country.
Tennessee utility officials braced for near-record power demand, while Ohio prepared for its coldest temperatures in decades.
PJM Interconnection, which operates the power grid supplying energy to more than 61 million people in parts of the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and South, has asked users to conserve electricity because of the cold, especially in the morning and late afternoon.
Recovery will be the focus in several Midwestern states today, since the bitter cold followed centimetres of snow and high winds that made traveling treacherous, especially on interstates in Indiana and Illinois, and was being blamed for numerous deaths in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence issued disaster declarations, paving the way to request federal aid.
More than 30,000 customers in Indiana were without power late last night. Utility crews worked to restore electricity as temperatures plunged into the negative 20s C, but officials cautioned some people could be in the cold and dark for days.