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Live updates: Bitter cold hits Washington, U.S.

A woman bundled against the cold walks past a homeless man in McPherson Square as temperatures dipped into the single digits Tuesday morning in Washington. (Mladen Antonov/Getty Images/AFP)

A woman bundled against the cold walks past a homeless man in McPherson Square as temperatures dipped into the single digits Tuesday morning in Washington. (Mladen Antonov/Getty Images/AFP)


A brutal cold is spreading across the United States, with frigid temperatures in Washington and wind chills below zero across the United States. We’re bringing you the latest on conditions in the Washington region as well as news from across the country.

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What's closed? What's delayed?

Numerous school districts around the Washington region are closed today, with several others opening late due to the cold. Here’s a rundown of what is closed, what is delayed and what is still open.

Mark Berman
January 7, 6:01 am
  • Mark Berman January 7, 6:01 am

Forecast: Potentially record-setting cold

The much-discussed polar vortex is dropping temperatures across the country. What exactly should you expect in the Washington region? Here’s today’s forecast from Matt Rogers of the Capital Weather Gang:

Super-chilled air greets us this morning with single digit lows with 15-25 mph winds from the west (gusts over 30 mph), causing morning rush hour wind chills well below zero (-10 to -25). At least we get sunny skies today, but temperatures make little headway with highs ranging mainly from the low to middle teens. This will likely set records for coldest high temperatures on this date. Wind chills might edge above zero by the afternoon, but just barely.

Mark Berman
January 7, 6:04 am
  • Mark Berman January 7, 6:04 am

"Just another day" in Minnesota

The cold front could lead to the lowest temperatures Washington has seen in decades. But for some, these arctic conditions are simply what they expect in the winter:

The temperature had warmed to minus-14, and a stiff wind was blowing snow around vast Lake Minnetonka — its surface a thick, hard layer of ice — pushing the wind chill ever lower. It was clearly time to go fishing. “If you’re a sportsman,” said Steve Kniss, a police sergeant who was planning to be out on the lake late Monday night, “it’s an opportunity to continue your fishing into the winter. And the winters are cold and long.”

With just about everyone else indoors in one of the coldest spots in the United States, on one of the coldest days in two decades, the outdoors belonged Monday to the hardiest of the hardy — ice fishermen and police officers, firefighters and other first responders. Over the years, they have adapted to the kind of weather that Washington will only taste Tuesday….

Across the state, the message was the same.

“It’s just another day,” said Bob Anderson, mayor of International Falls, the northern Minnesota town nicknamed “Icebox of the Nation,” where temperatures reached 30 below zero early Monday. “We know this is going to be part of our winter, and we prepare for it.”

Mark Berman
January 7, 6:10 am
  • Mark Berman January 7, 6:10 am

What is the polar vortex?

So what exactly is this polar vortex that is bringing about such cold conditions all over the country? And how does it cause temperatures to plummet? Here’s a look at what is causing the current cold.

Mark Berman
January 7, 6:27 am
  • Mark Berman January 7, 6:27 am

The unexpected cold

Washington awoke Tuesday morning to single-digit temperatures and blustery winds , courtesy of the same frigid air mass that engulfed much of the Midwest on Monday.

The cold is also impacting the Metro rail system, with a broken rail at the Brookland station on the Red Line causing one of several delays during the morning commute.

The mid-Atlantic deep freeze won’t be as bad as the one in the Midwest — above zero rather than below it — but people in the Washington region are not so thick skinned as Wisconsinites. (The very word “Wisconsin” refers to, among other things, a prehistoric glacial stage, whereas Washington was a fellow from Virginia.) And for many, such cold in Washington is tricky because it’s such a rarity.

“It’s really unexpected cold,” said Jesse Strauss, 22, an American University student from New York City. “You don’t buy an apartment expecting it’ll be below zero in D.C., because it’s never below zero in D.C.”

Head here to read more about the region’s preparations.

Mark Berman
January 7, 6:44 am
  • Mark Berman January 7, 6:44 am

Metro: Red Line delays

Mark Berman
January 7, 6:56 am
  • Mark Berman January 7, 6:56 am

Record-setting cold in Chicago

In Chicago, a place not exactly known for its balmy temperatures in the winter, the cold caused a new record low on Monday:

At 8 a.m., it was minus 16 at O’Hare International Airport, according to the official recording station for the city. The old record was minus 14, set in 1988 and 1884. According to the National Weather Service, it was only the 52nd day since 1871 that temperatures in Chicago hit minus 16.

But as the Chicago Tribune notes, the 13 coldest temperatures recorded in Chicago are all at least 20 degrees below zero, so it’s unlikely this spell will crack that list.

 

Ice builds up along Lake Michigan at North Avenue Beach as temperatures dip well below zero on Jan. 6 in Chicago.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Ice builds up along Lake Michigan at North Avenue Beach as temperatures dip well below zero on Jan. 6 in Chicago. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Mark Berman
January 7, 7:07 am
  • Mark Berman January 7, 7:07 am

Two D.C. schools closed

Two D.C. Public Schools will be closed today due to overnight incidents stemming from the weather, according to the school system:

• Hardy Middle School, located at 1819 35th St. NW, will be closed after a gas line froze overnight.

• Anacostia High School, located at 1601 16th St. SE, will also be closed due to reported flooding from a roof leak.

All other D.C. public schools are open on time today. Check this list for the latest on school openings and closings.

Mark Berman
January 7, 7:10 am
  • Mark Berman January 7, 7:10 am

Wind chill below zero around D.C.

Temperatures around Washington this morning broke a record low for at least one location, with wind chills dropping below zero at all three of the region’s airports. From the Capital Weather Gang:

At 6 a.m., Reagan National Airport was 7 degrees, the coldest low temperature in Washington, D.C. since 1996 (when it hit 5) with a wind chill of -10. The 7 degrees is 2 above the record low for the date from 1884. BWI Airport was just 3 degrees, a record low for the date, shattering the previous record of 8 from 1988. Its wind chill was -16. Dulles, interestingly, was a tad warmer, at 9 degrees, and a wind chill of -5. At 4 a.m., it touched 8 degrees, tying a record from 1988. Winds are generally sustained at 10-16 mph, and gusting around 20-25 mph.

Mark Berman
January 7, 7:16 am
  • Mark Berman January 7, 7:16 am

Little Rock sees lowest temperature since 1988

Mark Berman
January 7, 7:30 am
  • Mark Berman January 7, 7:30 am
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