Story Summary

Winter Storm Hercules

About a third of the nation — 100 million people in 22 states — are in the path of the storm, which is expected to be at its fiercest between 8 p.m. Thursday and 8 a.m. Friday, CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said.

Story Timeline
Previous Next
This story has 3 updates
temperature map, weather, national

A map showing where the cold weather system is on Tuesday.
Courtesy: National Weather Service

(CNN)-

The historic freeze that proved too cold for polar bears in the Midwest is spreading, dropping temperatures in the eastern third of the country about 20 degrees below normal for Tuesday, forecasters said.

Meanwhile, much of the Deep South is frozen solid, with hard freeze warnings in effect Tuesday from eastern Texas to the Florida Panhandle.

How cold will it get? In New York, where it was about 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) with wind chill Monday morning, could plunge as low as minus 7 (minus 22 C) on Tuesday — a nearly 60-degree drop in a single day.

Both Atlanta and Washington will shiver in 6-degree weather; Pittsburgh will shudder at 4 degrees F (minus 16 C).

All this thanks to a distorted polar vortex.

Stranded Amtrak passengers

The nasty winter weather left 500 people on three Amtrak trains stranded overnight in northern Illinois, an Amtrak spokesman said.

The Bureau County Sheriff’s Office said it responded Monday night after the trains were reportedly stuck in snowdrifts.

The Mendota Police Department received a report from Amtrak around 6 p.m. (7 p.m. ET) about a train stuck about 4 miles west of the city, Sgt. Ken Haun said. Officers tried to reach the train but couldn’t because of the weather.

Amtrak worked to make other arrangements, putting some passengers on buses.

On one train, about 300 passengers had to wait more than nine hours to reach their destination, CNN affiliate WXMI reported.

The train was stuck in Kalamazoo, Michigan, en route to Chicago. “It was kind of like purgatory,” a passenger told CNN affiliate WLS, adding that it was “not quite hellish because there was good company.”

Crippled air travel, too

By 7 a.m. ET Tuesday, more than 1800 flights were canceled within, into or out of the United States, according to flightaware.com.

New York resident Mindy Goldberg said her family’s flight back from Mexico had been diverted to Boston because of the weather.

“I just called my kids’ school to tell them they wouldn’t be there, and she said, ‘Everyone’s stuck somewhere,’ ” Goldberg told CNN affiliate WBZ.

In Indianapolis, Los Angeles resident Jason Bentley decided to play in the snow outside the airport after learning that his flight home had been canceled Sunday. It was 15 below zero (26 below zero C).

“This is the wettest snow I’ve ever touched,” Bentley said, “the easiest snow to make a snowman and to have snowball fights. It’s also probably the worst (weather) I’ve ever been in because of the temperature.”

Not just cold, but deadly

Authorities have blamed at least 15 deaths on the cold so far, including 11 from traffic accidents and two involving hypothermia.

Extreme wind chills mean flesh can freeze in as little as five minutes. Several major school districts are closed Tuesday, including those in Minneapolis and Atlanta, to prevent children from waiting outside at bus stops.

Chicago also opened up 12 centers for residents trying to stay warm, one of which was to stay open through Tuesday. Libraries and some other city facilities would also be open, said Evelyn Diaz of the city’s Department of Family and Support Services. Quinn said 100 warming centers were open statewide.

When will this end?

Temperatures should start edging closer to normal starting Wednesday.

By Thursday, most of the country will be back to normal, CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said. In fact, some temperatures may even be a bit higher.

By Josh Levs. Holly Yan, Marlena Baldacci, Kait Richmond, Deborah Doft, Matt Smith, Indra Petersons, Stephanie Elam, Paul Vercammen and Dave Hennen

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved

Dog playing in snow

CNN iReporter Todd Joyce took a photo of his dog Ginger, playing in the snow in Ohio on Sunday.
Courtesy: Todd Joyce/iReport/ CNN

(CNN)-

On Monday morning, Nashville was 40 degrees colder than Albany, New York. Memphis, Tennessee, was 20 degrees colder than Anchorage, Alaska. And Atlanta was colder than Moscow.

But the U.S. South was downright balmy compared to the Great Lakes region, where temperatures hovered in the negative 20s — before wind chill, which dropped temps to the negative 50s, making it very dangerous to go outside.

The “polar vortex” slamming much of the United States is not just another winter storm. It’s the coldest in 20 years in many areas, and breaking some records.

More than 3,100 flights nationwide were canceled by 10 a.m. ET Monday, according to flightaware.com.

While the current weather patterns gave the Northeast a bit of a reprieve, it’s in for a brutal drop as the arctic air works its way east. New York, where it’s about 50 degrees with wind chill Monday morning, could go as low as minus 7 on Tuesday, said CNN meteorologist Indra Petersons. The region could face a 60-degree temperature change in a single day.

The temperature spread within the United States is a stunning 130 degrees, CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said, with wind chill putting northern Minnesota at 60 below zero, while Key West, Florida, basks in its dreamy 70 degrees. Much of the West can also expect relatively pleasant weather through Tuesday.

But from Minneapolis to Chicago to Milwaukee, people are under health warnings to stay indoors.

“Skin freezes in just five minutes with a wind chill of minus 50,” said HLN meteorologist Bob Van Dillen.

Temperatures plummet in Green Bay as 49ers beat Packers

Frostbite occurs in 10 minutes with wind chills of minus 35, Hennen added.

In a very rare move, Minneapolis issued a “Particularly Dangerous Situation” warning about the “historic and life-threatening cold.” Such warnings are typically issued for tornadoes, said Petersons.

The National Weather Service adopted the Twitter hashtag “#Chiberia” for Chicago, where temperatures were at 14 below zero. (Parts of the vast Siberian region, such as Tobolsk, had Fahrenheit temps in the low teens Monday, though other parts had temperatures of 50 below zero.)

Over the past week, at least 13 people have died of weather-related causes. Eleven people died in road accidents; one man in Wisconsin died of hypothermia and an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s disease who wandered away from her home in New York state was found dead in the snow in a wooded area about 100 yards away.

The immediate forecast offers little relief. But by Wednesday, temperatures will start edging closer to normal, forecasters said, and by Thursday temperatures in most of the country will be back to normal, or even above normal.

“It’s bitterly 10 degrees here in Weatherford, Texas, with a wind chill of below zero,” said Elizabeth Brew. “Very hard to watch my kids go to school in such weather, but it is what it is.”

Here’s what to expect Monday:

Astonishing cold in the Midwest

High temperatures in parts of the Midwest won’t even get up to zero, the National Weather Service said.

Throw in some fierce winds, and you get wind chills like 55 below zero in Duluth, Minnesota; minus 34 in Chicago; and minus 24 in St. Louis.

The extreme weather prompted school cancellations Monday in many major school districts, including St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis and Milwaukee.

“It’s not just a snow event, it’s a cold event, and that’s what scares us,” Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard said. He urged residents to stay off the streets, especially after nightfall.

The Southern Illinois University men’s basketball team, fresh off a game against Illinois State, got trapped on the side of Interstate 57 late Sunday and was prepared to spend the night on the bus, SIU Athletic Director Mario Moccia said.

There wasn’t a massive amount of snow on the ground, Moccia said. Rather, it was the blowing snow that made the road virtually impossible to see.

The bus driver decided to pull off the road and get out of the way of traffic until visibility improved. But when the driver tried to get back on the road, there was no traction, and the bus was stuck.

“They’re just hanging out, they’re watching movies,” Moccia told CNN late Sunday night. He said the bus had plenty of fuel, heat and food, and the team was waiting for a tow truck.

Players later tweeted that they were going to spend the night at a nearby church in Tuscola, Illinois.

“Somehow this eventful day/night has led to our team sleeping on the floor of a church in Tuscola. What a journey it has been,” Dawson Verhines tweeted.

In Embarrass, Minnesota, residents wondered whether they might see their cold-temperature record of 64 below zero, set in 1996, snap like an icicle.

“I’ve got a thermometer from the weather service that goes to 100 below,” resident Roland Fowler told CNN affiliate KQDS. “If it gets that cold, I don’t want to be here.”

Deep freeze in the Deep South

Hard freeze warnings are in effect across much of the Deep South, from eastern Texas to Florida. That includes virtually all of Louisiana until late Monday morning, the National Weather Service said.

The arctic blast threatens to sweep subzero lows as far south as Alabama and plunge much of the South into single digits.

Tennessee declared a state of emergency as it braced for the coldest temperatures since 1994 on Monday.

“Temperatures will not get above freezing until Wednesday night,” the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said. It warned of rapidly falling temperatures and slick roads from flash freezing.

No electricity

As if the brutal cold isn’t bad enough, tens of thousands of Midwesterners are dealing with no electricity.

More than 15,000 customers in Indiana, 6,800 in Illinois and 2,200 in Missouri didn’t have power overnight, according to utility companies.

Chicago opened up 12 centers for residents to seek warmth, one of which was to stay open all night through Tuesday. Libraries and some other city facilities would also be open, said Evelyn Diaz of the city’s Department of Family and Support Services. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said 100 warming centers were open statewide.

This, too, shall pass

If there’s any good news about the biting cold snap, it’s that most of it should be over by Wednesday. That’s when a warming trend should begin, the National Weather Service said.

By Josh Levs, Holly Yan, Joe Sutton, Mari Ramos, Todd Borek, AnneClaire Stapleton and Julia Lull

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Winter Weather hits the Northeast

Courtesy: NOAA

NEW YORK (CNN)-

A nor’easter forming off the East Coast of the United States is expected to bring blizzard conditions by Thursday night to Long Island and Cape Cod. It’s being called Winter Storm Hercules.

About a third of the nation — 100 million people in 22 states — are in the path of the storm, which is expected to be at its fiercest between 8 p.m. Thursday and 8 a.m. Friday, CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said.

The complicated storm system “will raise havoc” this week, dumping a foot of snow and spreading subzero wind chills across parts of the region, the National Weather Service said.

On top of the bone-chilling cold, much of Long Island, New York, will be under a blizzard warning from Thursday night to Friday afternoon.

“Falling and blowing snow with strong winds and poor visibilities are likely,” the Weather Service said. “This will lead to whiteout conditions making travel extremely dangerous. Do not travel.”

Across the country, nasty winter weather means many can’t travel, even if they want to. More than 1,400 flights have been canceled for Thursday, according to FlightAware.com, which tracks cancellations due to weather and mechanical problems.

Here’s a breakdown on what to expect where:

New York and Long Island

As of Wednesday night, New York City was under a winter storm warning, as were many other densely populated areas in seven other states.

The city of 8 million people could get 9 inches of snow, subzero wind chills and turbulent winds, forecasters said.

New York City is expecting to see five to 10 inches of snow, with more possible on Long Island, where Nassau and Suffolk counties will be under a blizzard warning from 6 p.m. Thursday until 1 p.m. Friday, with predictions of 8 to 10 inches of snow, wind chills as low as 10 below zero and sustained winds of at least 35 mph.

Bitter cold will follow, with temperatures in the single digits by Saturday morning.

Upstate, the capital city of Albany could get buried under 14 inches of snow, with wind chills of 15 to 25 below zero, the National Weather Service said.

Boston

By Friday night, Boston should be covered by 5 to 11 inches of snow — with temperatures as low as 3 degrees below zero.

Citing likely “near blizzard” conditions Thursday night into late Friday morning, the state’s emergency management agency warned that 1 to 2 feet of fluffy, drifting snow could accumulate in places and that there could be moderate coastal flooding.

The forecast was so bad for Beantown that the city canceled school for Friday two days in advance.

“I guess Mother Nature wanted to give me one more gift,” Mayor Thomas Menino told reporters Thursday in one of his last days in the job he has held since 1993.

“Take precautions and take public transportation and take care of one another,” he urged. But, he added, the city was doing its part, with 700 pieces of equipment on city streets. “Our team is ready,” he said.

The combination of extreme cold, snow and strong winds had officials at homeless shelters preparing.

“Our main emphasis is getting people inside, where it is safer and warmer,” said Jennifer Harris, a spokeswoman for the Pine Street Inn shelter system in Boston, where a snow emergency has been declared. “Pine Street Inn is making sure to have extra staff and food and water. We are geared up to provide to a greater number of people.”

Connecticut

Wind chills in parts of Connecticut are expected to range from -5 to -20 degrees Thursday night and Friday; the National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings for most of the state through Friday morning.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy urged residents to take it slow and give themselves extra time for their commutes Thursday and Friday. “I am also asking that you avoid travel during the height of the storm Thursday night,” he said in a prepared statement.

Extreme football weather

Parts of the Midwest will get even colder in the coming days.

In Wisconsin, the Green Bay Packers will give a cold welcome to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, when temperatures could bottom out at -17.

But it will be relatively balmy Sunday in Cincinnati, where snow and rain are possible when the city’s Bengals host the San Diego Chargers in another NFL playoff matchup.

Of course, while the players might not have a choice, fans don’t have to brave the cold for either game. The big worries are for those who travel in the coming days. Authorities in New York, for example, say they may shut the Long Island Expressway if whiteout conditions make driving along the east-west highway too perilous.

Kevin Willims isn’t taking any chances, nor is he predicting a world-ending storm. The New Yorker said that he plans to sit tight and let Mother Nature do her thing.

“There’s not much you can do,” Willims said. “When it’s snowing and these streets lock up, there’s really nowhere you can go, so it’s best to just stay in.”

Chicago

From 3 to 8 inches of snow were predicted to fall Thursday on Chicago, with more possible later in the week, said Gary Schenkel, executive director of the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

Though snow in Chicago in the winter is a common event, it “can still wreak havoc on daily routines,” he noted.

More than 300 flights had been canceled by late Thursday morning at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, he said.

Next week could be no better for some U.S. residents.

A new shot of colder air will start to move into the northern Midwest by Saturday and will dive south Monday and Tuesday, carrying zero-degree cold as far south as Nashville. “That’s the coldest air we’ve seen that far south in several years,” said Hennen, the CNN meteorologist.

The cold air will kick off a new storm Sunday into Monday that could affect NFL games in interior sections of the Northeast, he said. Buffalo and Albany, New York, are likely to see snowfall, as will Pittsburgh, he predicted.

By Tom Watkins, Holly Yan, Joe Sutton, Greg Botelho, Dave Hennen, Lorenzo Ferrigno and Dave Alsup

Advertisement