Big Chill Blast of Arctic Paralyzes Eastern US

January 17, 2009 at 1:45 am Leave a comment

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Cathy Luo, from Taiwan but now a student in Tacoma, Wash., covers her ears with mitten-covered hands as she stands to have her photo taken by a friend during record cold Monday, Dec. 15, 2008, in Seattle. 

Icy driving conditions that from Saturday night to Sunday evening resulted in 110 collisions on state highways between the Seattle area and Canada and the low at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport dropped to 19 degrees at 4 a.m. Monday, breaking the old record of 20 for the date set in 1964. The National Weather Service said much of the state will receive snow Wednesday, and the cold will last through the week.
One week before the official start of winter, much of the nation is mired in a bitter cold snap.
Arctic air has found its way into Southern California, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas, with snow hitting those areas. Plunging temperatures and heavy snow has also blanketed the Pacific Northwest.
And in the upper Midwest and the Plains, much of the region is facing temperatures well below zero, reports Early Show meteorologist Dave Price. Denver set a record at minus 19.
Twelve deaths nationwide have been blamed on the latest storms and ensuing cold, including a Ski Patrol member killed in an avalanche in Colorado.
A California Highway Patrol officer directing traffic around an accident in Hacienda Heights, east of Los Angeles, was hit by an out-of-control car, said patrol Officer Terry Liu. One person was killed in the San Diego area when an armored truck slid off a wet highway and rolled down an embankment.
Exposure probably killed an 87-year-old man found outside his Montana nursing home. Weather-related car accidents were responsible for a death in Illinois, two deaths each in Minnesota and Missouri, and three in Oklahoma.
Authorities said the storm also contributed to the death Sunday of a 61-year-old man who was washed off a jetty by large waves in Crescent City, Calif.
At its height Monday, the storm triggered hundreds of fender-bender traffic accidents on freeways, highways and surface streets across California, Washington and Nevada.
Las Vegas got its first snowfall in five years, and the interstate leading into Vegas was shut down by a blizzard.
Los Angeles, with just two inches of rain since July, saw two inches fall in one day. Part of a roof collapsed at a trade school injuring 10 people.
And in Oregon, snow and bitter cold paralyzed downtown Portland, shutting down schools.
Among the record low temperatures yesterday: Bismarck, North Dakota (minus 18, with a wind chill of minus 42); Glasgow, Montana (31 below zero, and if you factor in the wind-chill, 45 below); and 15 degrees in Portland, Oregon.
One Death In Colorado Avalanche
In Denver, with temperatures dropping to 19 below zero (breaking the previous Dec. 15 record of minus 6 set in 1951), school buses couldn’t start up, so thousands of students couldn’t make it to class.
Even hardened residents can’t believe it.
“I’m prepared,” one person told CBS Station KCNC. “But I’m still freezing.”
A weekend storm left more than a foot of snow in the mountains. The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Department said the body of Ski Patrolman Cory Brettman, 52, was found in an avalanche 100 yards long and 30 yards wide outside the boundaries of the Aspen Mountain Ski area Sunday, where 14 inches of snow fell. The incident was under investigation.
The center said Monday that the current avalanche danger is “considerable” or higher in all of Colorado’s mountain areas.
Another storm was headed for Colorado, and it could drop another foot or two of snow in parts of the mountains. The state’s southwestern corner was expected to get the most.
Authorities said the extreme cold may have been the culprit behind a natural gas leak that prompted authorities to evacuate about 75 people from their homes in the small town of LaPorte, 60 miles north of Denver.
The Poudre Fire Authority said a valve malfunction caused the high-pressure line to vent gas into the air. No injuries were reported and residents were allowed to go home about 3 1⁄2 hours later.
Denver’s Road Home, a partnership between the city and county of Denver and Mile High United Way, announced Monday afternoon it was opening an emergency shelter for homeless men because of the extremely low temperatures expected this week. The shelter will be open in the evenings through Sunday.
Cold, Rain And Snow Cover California
Rains that pummeled California have eased into light showers and clearer conditions for much of the state this morning. But chilly temperatures rare for the region and the season remain.
And another round of rain is expected this afternoon.
About 20,000 customers lost power across the state, utilities reported.
In Anaheim, students and teachers fled a trade school when the roof of a classroom collapsed during heavy rain Monday. Twelve students and two staff members were hospitalized with mostly minor injuries, and all but one were released by afternoon, said Lynn Porter, assistant superintendent of educational services.
In Yorba Linda, where 100 homes were lost to a wildfire last month, hundreds of residences in the canyon areas were ordered evacuated Monday morning because of the threat of mudslides. But the threat eased later in the day.
The area was one of several placed under a flash-flood watch because hillsides and canyons had been stripped of vegetation by recent wildfires, increasing the chances of severe flooding and mudslides.
A section of the Pacific Coast Highway in the Sunset Beach area was closed in both directions by flooding.
Midwest Hit Hard
The Midwest has been hit especially hard by snow and record cold. Fargo, N.D. is digging out from a weekend snowstorm with temperatures between 8 and 15 below zero – and the wind chill makes it feel like 30 below.
The St. Francis House shelter for the homeless in Sioux Falls, S.D., where Monday’s low was minus 11, was a lifesaver, said Richard Byrd.
“I would be probably huddled up right now under a bunch of blankets because this was my only alternative. If it wasn’t for the St. Francis house, I’d be in a scary, scary situation,” he said.
Major highways in Minnesota, and North and South Dakota reopened after Sunday’s blizzard dropped as much as 14 inches of snow, but hundreds of schools were closed in the three states.
Monday morning lows in North Dakota included minus 18 in Bismarck, with a wind chill factor of minus 42. The smaller communities of Bowbells and Berthold reported wind chill factors at around 50 below.
In Williston, N.D., Penny Groth acknowledged: “It’s just darn cold right now.” She said the Gramma Sharon’s Family Restaurant she owns had been closed since Saturday night because of the snow and cold.
A woman was arrested on child abuse charges after her 2-year-old son was found outside a Grand Forks mobile home dressed only in a shirt, shorts and boots when the temperature was 15 below zero, police said.
Monday’s cold was an abrupt change for many areas. Illinois had unseasonable warmth Sunday with temperatures in the 50s, but Monday morning lows were in the single digits across the northern part of the state. Rockford had a low of just 3, and 20 mph wind made it feel like minus 18, the National Weather Service said.
“Right now it looks like it’s about 14 degrees,” cashier Mike Kanise said Mon
day afternoon as he checked a weather station at Hannel’s Amaco truck stop in Jacksonville, Ill. “Feels like it’s minus 1.”
Hundreds of Illinois schools were closed because of ice-covered roads. More schools were closed in Michigan, where northern areas had blizzard conditions as wind gusting to more than 50 mph caused whiteouts and generated wind chills as low as 30 below.
In central Arkansas, the morning commute has turned risky with ice glazing bridges and overpasses.
The National Weather Service says a quarter-inch of ice could accumulate in central Arkansas, with the possibility of up to a half-inch in the northeastern part of the state.
State offices are delaying openings, and several school districts in the northern part of the state canceled classes yesterday. Final exams scheduled for today at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and its law school were postponed until tomorrow.
In Wyoming, authorities on Sunday morning rescued two men stranded overnight on an island in a reservoir where they had been fishing. The freezing cold and high winds prevented them from returning to shore.
Northeast Still Reeling From Ice Storm
Hundreds of thousands remain without power four days after a devastating ice storm swept through several Northeastern states. .
“In my 26 years here it’s the worst I’ve ever seen,” one worker told CBS station WBZ.
Central Maine Power says the number of its customers still in the dark is down to 30,000, and it hopes to have everyone back in service by tomorrow.
SOURCE: CBS/AP
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