January 7

Polar blast brings single-digit cold to East, South

The morning weather map for the eastern half of the U.S. looked like an algebra worksheet: lots of small, negative numbers.

By Rick Callahan
The Associated Press

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A student looks out the frosted window of a school bus as it moves down 19th Street, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014 in Philadelphia. The record-breaking polar air that has made the Midwest shiver over the past few days spread to the East and South on Tuesday, sending the mercury plunging into the single digits and teens from Boston and New York to Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville and Little Rock _ places where many people don’t know the first thing about extreme cold.

AP Photo/The Philadelphia Inquirer, Michael Wirtz

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Anton Marble and his sister, Tamika, help their mother, Jaina McGee, free her car from the snow in Marion, Ind., on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. More than 13 inches of snow fell on the area as temperatures plunged to a record 14 below zero Monday night.

AP Photo/Chronicle-Tribune, Jeff Morehead

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Emergency workers in Atlanta drove the homeless to shelters or hospitals.

With the bitter cold slowing baggage handling and aircraft refueling, airlines canceled more than 2,000 flights in the U.S., bringing the four-day total to more than 11,000.

In New Orleans, which reported a low of 26 degrees, hardware stores ran out of pipe insulation. A pipe burst in an Atlanta suburb and a main road quickly froze over. In downtown Atlanta, a Ferris wheel near Centennial Olympic Park that opened over the summer to give riders a bird's eye view of the city closed because it was too cold.

Farther south in Pensacola, Fla., a Gulf Coast city better known for its white sand beaches than frost, streets normally filled with joggers, bikers and people walking dogs were deserted early Tuesday. A sign on a bank flashed 19 degrees. Patches of ice sparkled in parking lots where puddles froze overnight.

Monica Anderson and Tommy Howard jumped up and down and blew on their hands while they waited for a bus. Anderson said she couldn't it recall it ever being so cold.

"I'm not used to it. It is best just to stay inside until it gets better," said Anderson, who had to get out for a doctor's appointment.

The Lower 48 states, when averaged out, reached a low of 13.8 degrees overnight Monday, according to calculations by Ryan Maue of Weather Bell Analytics. An estimated 190 million people in the U.S. were subjected to the polar vortex's icy blast.

Farmers worried about their crops.

Diane Cordeau of Kai-Kai Farm in Indiantown, Fla., about 90 miles north of Miami, had to pick her squash and tomatoes Monday to beat the freeze but said her leafy vegetables, such as kale, will be sweeter and tastier because of the cold.

"I'm the queen of lettuce around here, so the colder the better," said Cordeau, whose farm serves high-end restaurants that request specific produce or organic vegetables.

PJM Interconnection, which operates the power grid that serves more than 61 million people in the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and South, asked users to conserve electricity because of the cold, especially in the morning and late afternoon.

Across the South, the Tennessee Valley Authority said power demand in the morning reached the second-highest winter peak in the history of the Depression-era utility. Temperatures averaged 4 degrees across the utility's seven-state region.

In South Carolina, a large utility used 15-minute rolling blackouts to handle demand, but there were no reports of widespread outages in the South.

Natural gas demand in the U.S. set a record Tuesday, eclipsing the mark set a day earlier, according to Jack Weixel, director of energy analysis at Bentek Energy.

In Chicago, it was too cold even for the polar bear at the Lincoln Park Zoo. While polar bears can handle below-zero cold in the wild, Anana was kept inside Monday because she doesn't have the thick layer of fat that bears typically develop from feeding on seals and whale carcasses.

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Jon Kramer, of Bismarck, N.D., said a good way to beat the cold conditions is with a face mask called the cold avenger. Kramer uses the unusual looking face mask to break the wind as he rides his bicycle on Monday.

The Associated Press

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Will King, 14, tries to push an SUV driven by his father Bob up their driveway in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Monday.

The Associated Press

 


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