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

Wed Jan 7, 2015 7:56pm EST
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By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Schools in large cities across the Midwest and into the Northeast announced they will close on Thursday to protect children from bitterly cold temperatures as wind chill warnings were issued for most of the eastern half of the United States.

The National Weather Service (NWS) warned of an Arctic air blast from Canada continuing to provide subzero temperatures for the U.S. Midwest, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast on Wednesday evening and into Thursday.

On Wednesday, public school officials in Chicago, Milwaukee and Boston canceled Thursday classes out of caution, saying the frigid temperatures in the forecast pose a danger to children.

“Our top priority remains the safety of our students, and tomorrow’s weather conditions could again be dangerous to students traveling to and from school,” said Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett in a statement to parents.

Chicago Public Schools, the third-largest U.S. school district with 400,000 students and almost 800 schools, told students on Wednesday 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.   Continued...

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