Death toll rises in Northeast storm; record lows likely

12:31 PM, Jan 4, 2014   |    comments
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A man uses a snow blower to clear a path Jan. 3, 2014, in New York City.(Photo: Frank Franklin II, AP)
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USA Today -- The bitter cold that gripped the snow-covered northern tier from Cleveland to Boston on Friday shows no sign of easing, as another arctic blast roaring out of Canada threatens to drive weekend temperatures to all-time record lows.

The National Weather Service said "dangerously cold temperatures" will slam the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest through the weekend, driving wind chill temperatures in some areas to 50, 60 or even 70 degrees below zero by Sunday night.

The weather service warned that "wind chills colder than 50 below can cause exposed flesh to freeze in only 5 to 10 minutes."

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Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton announced Friday that all schools in the state would be closed Monday. All-time record cold temperatures are possible in Minneapolis on Monday, according to the weather service.

The combination of arctic air with the gusty winds is expected to lower wind chill temperatures to the single digits over the Mid-Atlantic while areas of New England can expect wind chill readings 10 to 20 degrees below zero, the weather service said.

Before the full force of the Arctic blast roars in, another winter storm will spread snow and ice from the central Plains to the Great Lakes states this weekend. The heaviest snow is forecast to hit St. Louis, Indianapolis, Detroit, Cleveland and Buffalo, AccuWeather predicts, from late Saturday into early Monday.

The storm will also bring snow and slippery travel to much of the Ohio and Tennessee valleys, AccuWeather meteorologist Courtney Spamer said.

Much of the eastern half of the country is already reeling from Thursday's killer storm that has shut down airports and major roads and forced school closings in much of the Northeast.

At least 16 people died in the storm: Slick roads were blamed for traffic deaths in Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois. Authorities said a 71-year-old woman suffering from Alzheimer's disease froze to death after she wandered away from her rural western New York home. A worker at a Philadelphia storage facility died when a huge pile of salt fell on him.

The storm - which brought plummeting temperatures as low as 8 degrees below zero to Burlington, Vt., early Friday with a wind chill of 29 below zero - dumped 23 inches of snow in Boxford, Mass., by early Friday and 18 inches in Boston and parts of western New York near Rochester. Ten inches of snow fell in Lakewood, N.J., and Philadelphia and New York City got 6 inches.

Governors in New York and New Jersey declared states of emergency, urging residents to stay at home.

"This is nothing to be trifled with," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. "People should seriously consider staying in their homes."

At 6 p.m., temperatures in Nanuet, N.Y., hovered around 11 degrees, but the wind made it feel closer to 5 below zero. Heather Zehr, an AccuWeather meteorologist said overnight temperatures in White Plains were expected to drop to 3 below, rivaling the city's record of minus 5 degrees, set back in 1981, The (Westchester County, N.Y.)Journal-News reports.

Strong winds also forced the shut down of JFK International Airport on Friday morning. Major highways were also closed in New York and Pennsylvania., which tracks flights, reported more than 3,200 flights canceled nationwide on Friday evening. By Saturday 7 a.m., 765 flights were canceled and 654 delayed nationwide.

The harsh winter storm was the first test for new New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who as public advocate in 2010 criticized his predecessor Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his handling of a large snowstorm.

As soon as snow began falling Thursday night, de Blasio sent hundreds of plows and salt spreaders on the streets.

"If you don't need to go out, please don't go out," de Blasio said at a news conference Thursday evening, urging residents to use mass transit. "Stay off the streets, stay out of your cars."

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