Record freeze extends to eastern United States, at least eight dead

Tue Jan 7, 2014 5:21pm EST
 
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By Victoria Cavaliere and Brendan O'Brien

NEW YORK/MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - A deadly blast of arctic air shattered decades-old temperature records as it enveloped the eastern United States on Tuesday, snarling air, road and rail travel, driving energy prices higher and overwhelming shelters for homeless people.

At least eight deaths have been reported across the country because of the polar air mass sweeping over North America during the past few days. Authorities have put about half of the United States under a wind chill warning or cold weather advisory.

Temperatures were expected to be 25 degrees to 35 degrees Fahrenheit (14 to 19 degrees Celsius) below normal from the Midwest to the Southeast, the National Weather Service said.

The agency that oversees the electric grid supplying the mid-Atlantic and parts of the Midwest said electricity suppliers were struggling to keep up with surging demand as the cold forced some power plants to shut.

"This particular cold is far-reaching and most of our neighbors are experiencing the extreme conditions we are," said Michael Kormos, executive vice president for operations at the agency, PJM Interconnection. Its members include units of American Electric Power Co, FirstEnergy Corp, Exelon Corp, Public Service Electric & Gas Co.

Oil refiners were also hit, with Marathon Petroleum Corp and Exxon Mobil Corp both experiencing cold-related outages.

Homeless shelters and public buildings took in people who were freezing outside.

Daniel Dashner, a 33-year-old homeless man who typically sleeps under a bridge on Milwaukee's south side, said he opted to seek a spot at a shelter on Monday night.   Continued...

 
A man walks beside a frozen wall on a beach in Chicago, Illinois, January 7, 2014. REUTERS/Jim Young