An icy "Siberian Express" surged across the Midwest and Plains yesterday with high winds that made the temperature feel like 60 to 70 below zero in some places. Ice and snow storms on the East and West Coasts snarled traffic, closed schools and ripped down power lines.
At least three deaths were blamed on the weather.
The Pacific storm dumped snow on higher elevations of Oregon, California and Nevada. In the Atlantic states, a storm piled up snow as far south as North Carolina, where ice-laden trees and power lines were blamed for thousands of power outages.
Schools closed because of slippery roads in parts of Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New York's Long Island, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina and Oregon.
Temperatures were below zero across Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas and Minnesota. International Falls, Minn., dipped to 18 below zero, with a wind-chill factor of 59 below zero. Wind gusted from 25 to 40 mph over North Dakota, and the National Weather Service said the wind combined with temperatures as low as 18 below zero to create a chill factor of 76 below zero in the north-central part of the state.
The lowest actual temperature in the 48 contiguous states was 29 degrees below zero at West Yellowstone, Mont., the weather service said. In Canada, closer to the source of the frigid air, a low of 35 below zero was reported at the town of La Rouge, Saskatchewan, the weather service said.
"The 'Siberian Express' is coming down with temperatures dropping into the teens," said weather service forecaster Walter Zamorski in Newark, N.J.
"The Siberian Express is not an exaggeration. Unseasonably cold weather does come from Siberia, over the North Pole, down through Canada into this country," said Anthony Gigi, another meteorologist in Newark.
The cold air was spreading south and east, rolling across Kansas during the day, and lows in the teens were forecast as far south as northern Alabama, the weather service said.
At breakfast time in North Dakota, Northern States Power in Fargo registered a record electrical demand, said Joe Peterson, distribution engineering manager for the utility's Fargo division.
The cold air's advance across Michigan dropped the temperature at Muskegon from 28 degrees at midnight to 14 degrees at 8 a.m., and to 12 degrees at noon, the weather service said.
Chicago's Department of Human Service opened two telephone lines for homeless people in need of emergency shelter. The agency said more than 2,500 people used the city's shelters each night over the weekend. One man was found frozen to death Saturday on a street in Cicero, Ill., said Detective Robert Biziarek.
The East Coast storm spread freezing rain over North Carolina and then rolled up the coast into the Northeast just in time to disrupt yesterday's morning rush hour.
Boston's Logan International Airport closed for more than two hours during the morning, postponing or canceling about 40 flights, said spokesman Phil Orlandella. Six inches of snow caused flight delays at T.F. Green State Airport in Warwick, R.I.
Snow accumulations ranged from 2 inches in the northern mountains of North Carolina, up to 8 inches in eastern Massachusetts, and 7 inches in Connecticut and New York's Long Island. One person died in a traffic accident on an icy Connecticut road.
Ice accumulated from freezing rain snapped tree limbs and power lines across much of North Carolina on Sunday, cutting power to an estimated 85,000 customers, including some holiday travelers at Raleigh-Durham Airport.
By yesterday about 20,000 customers in Durham and Chapel Hill were still without power, said Anne Scheffield of Duke Power Co. As many as 10,000 Wake County customers still had no power yesterday, said Roger Hannah of Carolina Power & Light Co.
A fast-moving Pacific storm coated Oregon roads with ice and dumped heavy snow in the mountains of northern California and Nevada. Major traffic delays occurred on westbound roads across the Sierra Nevada as thousands of Californians tried to return home after New Year weekend vacations in the Reno and Tahoe areas of Nevada.
The Coast Guard said it rescued three fishermen off the northern California coast after their boat capsized in the storm. Another crew member found unconscious in a life raft died.