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Arctic freeze continues to blast huge swaths of U.S.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Brutally cold temperatures and dangerous wind chills stayed put across much of the U.S. on Monday, promising the coldest temperatures ever for Iowa’s presidential nominating contest, holding up travelers, and testing the mettle of NFL fans in Buffalo for a playoff game that was delayed a day by wind-whipped snow.

About 150 million Americans were under a windchill warning or advisory for dangerous cold and wind, said Zack Taylor, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in College Park, Maryland, as an Arctic air mass spilled south and eastward across the U.S.

Sunday morning saw temperatures as low as minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit to minus 40 F in northern and northeast Montana. Saco, Montana, dropped to minus 51 F. Subzero lows reached as far south as Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and parts of Indiana, Taylor said.

About 110,000 U.S. homes and businesses were without power late Monday, the bulk of them in Oregon after widespread outages that started on Saturday. Portland General Electric warned that strong winds forecast for Monday and threat of an ice storm Tuesday could delay restoration efforts.

Classes were canceled on Tuesday for students in major cities, including Chicago — the nation’s fourth-largest public school district — Denver, Dallas, Fort Worth and Portland.

The storm was blamed for at least four weekend deaths around Portland, including two people who died of suspected hypothermia. Another man was killed after a tree fell on his house and a woman died in a fire that spread from an open-flame stove after a tree fell onto an RV.

Three deaths of homeless people were under investigation in the Milwaukee area. They likely died from hypothermia, officials said. A 64-year-old man was found dead under a bridge on Friday, a 69-year-old man was pronounced dead after being found in a vehicle on Saturday, and on Monday a 40-year-old man was found dead near railroad tracks, the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office said.

In Utah, where almost four feet of snow fell in the mountains over a 24-hour period, a snowmobiler was struck and killed Sunday night by a semitrailer about 70 miles southeast of Salt Lake City, according to the Utah Highway Patrol. The victim was attempting to cross U.S. Highway 40.

In Wyoming, a backcountry skier was killed after triggering a 50-feet wide avalanche. The victim was swept into a gully and through brush and trees, then remained buried for about fifteen minutes before being found by a companion in the mountains south of Alpine, Wyoming, on Sunday afternoon, according to the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center.

It marked the third U.S. avalanche fatality in recent days, following a Wednesday accident at a California ski resort that killed one person and injured three others, and another that killed a person on Thursday in the Idaho backcountry near the Montana border.

Swirling snow and avalanche dangers prompted numerous road closures across the Rocky Mountains. East of the resort community of Vail, Colorado, officials closed a 20-mile stretch of Interstate 70, the primary east-west highway through the state.

Crews on Monday continued clearing snow after a weekend avalanche briefly trapped the occupants of 10 cars and shut down the road over Berthoud Pass in central Colorado. Kaitlyn Punzalan was in a car with her husband and some friends heading home to Denver when they were caught in the slide.

“My friend was driving my car and all of a sudden he goes — ‘Ah, avalanche!’ And we just look up and see all of this snow coming down towards us,” Punzalan told KUSA-TV. She said it took them about an hour to dig out, with help from others who were on the road. No injuries were reported.

The Buffalo Bills renewed their call for shovelers at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York, on Monday morning to dig out from more than a foot and a half of snow that fell through a blustery weekend.

Crews had the turf cleared by midmorning. Citizen shovelers working for $20 an hour worked in temperatures in the teens to clear seats for fans ahead of the 4:30 p.m. game.

At first glance it was a daunting task, Bob Isaacs of Buffalo acknowledged a few hours after arriving at 7:30 a.m. He considered his work a contribution to the team.

“You got to remember you’re a Bills fan. It’s all part of the deal,” he said.

Neighboring towns saw even higher snow totals, with 41 inches in Hamburg and Angola.

Presidential campaigns were expecting the cold and dangerous travel conditions to hamper turnout for the Iowa caucuses, the opening contest in the monthslong Republican presidential primary. Voting was set to begin Monday night.

Transportation officials in Portland, Oregon, urged residents to avoid travel all day Tuesday as a forecast of up to half an inch of freezing rain could make roads hazardously slick with ice and weigh down trees and power lines, causing them to fall.

Multnomah County, home to Portland, said it served a record number of people — 1,136 — at a record number of 12 overnight emergency weather shelters on Sunday night as low temperatures hit 17 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. The county estimated it needed 100 additional volunteers to respond to the high demand in a city that has thousands of homeless people living on its streets.

“As we head into day five of the weather emergency … the real limitation for us right now is staffing,” said Dan Field, director of the joint county-city homelessness office. “We have to have enough people to keep the doors open of the emergency shelters.”

Air travelers across the country experienced delays and cancellations. The flight tracking service FlightAware reported about 2,900 cancellations Monday within, into or out of the United States.

Freeze warnings were issued by the National Weather Service across the Deep South. Mississippi forecasters warned of a “long duration freeze” that would last in some locations until Thursday.

Highs of 15 or 20 degrees F were expected across Oklahoma, Arkansas, northern Texas and western Tennessee. Louisiana and Alabama also had freeze warnings.

The winter storm was affecting travel across the central Appalachian region, with areas of Tennessee seeing as much as 8 inches of snow. The Tennessee Legislature canceled its meetings for the week.

The snow was expected to continue accumulating through early Tuesday with bitter cold wind chills.

With the potential for record low temperatures in Texas, the state’s electrical grid operator asked consumers to conserve energy. About 11,000 Texas customers were without power Monday, according to poweroutage.us.

Light snow was expected through the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast through Monday and Tuesday, Taylor said, including 2 to 3 inches of snow forecast for Washington, D.C. — what would be the most snowfall in a day in the nation’s capital in at least two years.

Another round of cold air was expected in coming days to drop south into the Northern Plains and Midwest before reaching the Deep South by the end of the week.

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Associated Press journalists who contributed include Julie Walker in New York City; John Wawrow in Orchard Park, New York; Jack Dura in Bismarck, North Dakota; Travis Loller in Nashville; Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin; and Claire Rush in Portland, Oregon. Gonzalez reported from in McAllen, Texas. Brown contributed from Billings, Montana.
Source: The Garden Island

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