'Baby, It's Cold Outside': large part of U.S. in deep freeze

Wed Jan 7, 2015 5:53pm EST
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By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Schools closed in cities across the Midwest and as far south as Tennessee to protect children from bitterly cold temperatures as wind chill warnings were issued on Wednesday for a large part of the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains.

The National Weather Service (NWS) said Arctic air from Canada was bringing the dangerous cold to the U.S. Midwest, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Subzero overnight temperatures were forecast for a number of northern states.

In Chicago, the third-largest U.S. school district with 400,000 students and almost 800 schools, students were told to stay home and indoors as temperatures dropped to between 20 and 30 degrees Fahrenheit below average. Overnight readings were expected to be as low as 16 below zero.

There was little snow-day fun for children freed from school.

Sledding hills and cross-country ski areas were shut down around Chicago, and in South Dakota, the city of Sioux Falls closed six ice-skating rinks, citing wind chill peril.

Pat Powers, 48, of Brookings, S.D., about 50 miles north of Sioux Falls, put on snow gear to go shopping for sugar to take home for his teenaged daughter who wanted to bake on her day off from classes. He said he preferred to run the errand rather than let her out in the cold.

"It's a good day to stay home and blog in your pajamas," said Powers, a political blogger.

Although Chicago was sunny and clear, commuters said uncovered hands and faces became painful after a few seconds in the brutal cold. The National Weather Service warned that frostbite could happen with just 15 minutes of exposure and advised people to keep pets indoors.   Continued...

Icicles are seen near a beach on Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois, January 6, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young