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Updated: Tue, 07 Jan 2014 01:43:55 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

U.S. South, East brace for polar temperatures



Bliss Communications maintenance worker Joe Villa shows the results of working outdoors in -17 degree weather. Villa was clearing drifted snow from the walkways around the downtown Janesville building early on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014. The midwest is expected to have to suffer through another day of extreme cold before temperatures begin to rise in a more seasonal direction later tin the week. (© AP Photo/The Janesville Gazette,)

Bliss Communications maintenance worker Joe Villa shows the results of working outdoors in -17 degree weather. Villa was clearing drifted snow from the walkways around the downtown Janesville building early on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014. The midwest is expected to have to suffer through another day of extreme cold before temperatures begin to rise in a more seasonal direction later tin the week. (AP Photo/The Janesville Gazette, ) The Janesville Gazette/The Associated Press

Frigid air that snapped decades-old records will make venturing outside dangerous for a second straight day, this time spreading to southern and eastern parts of the U.S. and keeping many schools and businesses shuttered. Meanwhile, residents driven from their homes by power outages in the Midwest worried about burst pipes.

Monday's subzero temperatures broke records in Chicago, which set a record for the date at nearly -27 C, and Fort Wayne, Ind., where the mercury fell to -25 C. Records also fell in Oklahoma and Texas, and wind chills across the region were 40 below and colder. Officials in states like Indiana already struggling with high winds and more than a foot of snow urged residents to stay home if they could.

"The cold is the real killer here," Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard said Monday as he asked schools and businesses to remain closed another day. "In 10 minutes you could be dead without the proper clothes."

187 million may be affected by 'polar vortex'

The polar air will next invade the East and South on Tuesday, bringing with it the prospect of more records falling. Highs in the single digits were expected in Georgia and Alabama, and wind chill warnings stretched as far south as Florida, with forecasts calling for -23 C in Atlanta and -24 C in Baltimore.

In downtown Louisville, Ky., where wind chills dropped to -30 C Monday, John Tyler gathered with friends at a McDonald's. The self-described homeless man spent Sunday night sleeping on the street.

Dressed in a sweatshirt, two coats and a black woolen cap, Tyler said there's no way to adequately prepare for this kind of cold.

"How we're dealing with it? You can't deal with it," Tyler said. "There's no way you can deal with it."

Forecasters said some 187 million people in all could feel the effects of the "polar vortex" by the time it spreads across the country. Tennessee utility officials braced for near-record power demand, while Ohio prepared for its coldest temperatures in decades.

PJM Interconnection, who operates the power grid supplying energy to more than 61 million people in parts of the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and South, has asked users to conserve electricity Tuesday because of the cold, especially in the morning and late afternoon.

Recovery begins in some Midwestern states

Recovery will be the focus in several Midwestern states Tuesday, since the subzero cold followed inches of snow and high winds that made travelling treacherous — especially on interstates in Indiana and Illinois — and was being blamed for numerous deaths in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence issued disaster declarations, paving the way to request federal aid.

More than 30,000 customers in Indiana were without power late Monday night. Utility crews worked to restore electricity as temperatures plunged, but officials cautioned some people could be in the cold and dark for days.

"My kids are ready to go home, and I'm ready too," said 41-year-old Timolyn Johnson-Fitzgerald, of Indianapolis, who faced a second night sleeping on cots at a Red Cross shelter with her three children, ages 11, 15 and 18.

Bob Oravec, a meteorologist at the Weather Prediction Centre in College Park, Md., said the blast of frigid air raised concerns that roads wet from melted snow would freeze over.

"In Maryland, we lost a lot of the snowpack and a lot of water is draining off, and the temperatures are dropping fast," Oravec said.

Warmer temperatures near for Midwest

But there are signs things are returning to normal.

JetBlue Airways, which stopped all scheduled flights to and from New York and Boston on Monday, planned to resume some flights Tuesday morning. Southwest Airlines operations in Chicago resumed Monday night, even if it was, as a spokesman for the Texas-based airline called it, "a trickle."

The Minnesota Zoo announced it would reopen to the public Tuesday. State lawmakers in Indiana planned to kick off their 2014 legislative session after a day's postponement.

And warmer temperatures — at least, near or above freezing — are in store for the Midwest. Indianapolis should reach almost -3 C on Wednesday, and other parts of the central U.S. could climb above freezing later in the week.

Even International Falls, Minn., had something to look forward to. Wind chills dropped as low as -48 C Monday, but were expected to rebound to about -32 C Tuesday. By Friday, the low was expected to be between -12 and -15 C, Oravec said.

Until then, take advice for dealing with frostbite- and hypothermia-inducing cold from Anthony Bickham in St. Paul, Minn., who jumped around while waiting for the bus Monday.

"You gotta keep it moving," Bickham said. "Stay warm at ... all costs, you know."

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