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July 26, 2014
Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Record freeze extends to eastern US and leaves at least 21 dead

Ice builds up along Lake Michigan at North Avenue Beach as temperatures dipped well below zero in Chicago, Illinois
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At least 21 deaths have been reported across the country due to the polar air mass sweeping over North America, producing the coldest temperatures in two decades.

A deadly blast of arctic air that shattered decades-old records as it gripped the middle United States was moving eastward, canceling thousands of flights, paralyzing road travel and closing schools and businesses.

Shelters for the homeless were overflowing due to the severe cold brought by a polar air mass that produced the coldest temperatures in two decades and at least four deaths.

At New York's Bowery Mission homeless shelter, the 80 bed dormitory was at full capacity on Monday night and another 179 people slept in the chapel and cafeteria, officials said.

Temperatures were expected to be 25 to 35 degrees F (14-19 Celsius) below normal from the Midwest to the Southeast, the National Weather Service warned.

After running into unpassable snow and ice, three Chicago-bound Amtrak trains came to a halt Monday afternoon, stranding more than 500 passengers overnight. They had heat, water, lights and toilet facilities, according to Amtrak.

Passengers on two trains, which spent the night on the tracks in Bureau County, Illinois were transported to Chicago by chartered bus, an Amtrak spokesman said.

In the normally mild south, Atlanta recorded its coldest weather on this date in 44 years, when the temperature dropped to 6 F (minus 14 C), while temperatures in northern Florida also briefly dropped below freezing, though the state's citrus crop was unharmed, according to a major growers' group.

Wholesale electricity prices in the central and eastern United States spiked far above their normal seasonal level as homes and businesses needed to use more energy to warm buildings amid dangerously cold conditions. Power demand in Texas hit a new winter record.

The deep freeze snarled many Americans' morning commutes with icy or closed roads and flight delays on Tuesday, with some 1,987 US flights canceled and roughly 1,028 delayed, according to FlightAware.com, which tracks airline activity.

The frigid air pushing eastward yesterday was forecast to dump one to two feet of snow east of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

Many weather-related deaths were reported, including a 48-year-old Chicago man who had a heart attack while shoveling snow on Sunday and an elderly woman who was found outside her Indianapolis home early Monday.

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