Midwest, Northeast Feel Arctic Chill

Saturday, January 17th 2009, 2:09 pm
By: News 9

(CBS/AP) A bone-numbing Arctic blast drove temperatures down Friday to 11 below in parts of the Midwest and Northeast, closing schools to spare children from freezing at bus stops and prompting police to keep a watchful eye out for the homeless.

Forecasters said temperatures in the upper Midwest could turn into the coldest in years as frigid air keeps spilling south from Canada. The cold snap has claimed at least five lives and contributed to dozens of traffic accidents as vehicles slipped and slid on icy roads.

Scores of schools in Michigan, Iowa, Ohio, Illinois and upstate New York canceled classes for Friday as officials feared it would be dangerous for students to walk to school or wait for buses.

"They're waiting 30 minutes at a bus stop; there's the fear of frostbite and hypothermia," said Champaign Assistant Superintendent Beth Shepperd. "We also have more children walking to school without adequate outerwear."

At 5:30 a.m. Friday it was minus 10 in Cleveland, minus 6 in Detroit and minus 11 in Chicago.

In parts of Maine, temperatures dropped to minus 7 - the coldest many longtime residents have ever seen.

"We're just amazed at how cold it is," Justin Dubois of Ft. Kent, Maine told CBS Radio News. "We've had people that have been around for a while that have never seen temperatures drop this low without wind chill."

In upstate New York, meteorologist Dave Sage said areas near Lake Erie were walloped by snow, with some receiving up to 2 inches per hour Friday morning.

The cold kept many from venturing outdoors. Those who did kept their trips short.

Quentin Masters, who was at the post office mailing a gift in downtown Syracuse, said he had on two coats and long underwear Friday morning.

"It was almost too cold to come down here today but it's a birthday present for my sister in Buffalo," said Masters, 28. "It's on Monday and I don't want it to be late."

Although the temperature in Syracuse was 5 above just after dawn, wind gusts of up to 25 mph chilled the air to subzero temperatures. 

Syracuse police were searching for a missing 44-year-old man who walked out of University Hospital on Thursday night. James Delpha recently suffered a severe brain injury and is not able to properly appreciate the risk of exposure to the cold and snow, police said. He was wearing only black sweat pants, a long sleeved zipper-up fleece, slippers and a red and black baseball cap when he walked out of the hospital.

The National Weather Service predicted the frigid temperatures would persist into the weekend. Wind chill warnings were in effect over much of five states advising the cold and strong winds could lead to hypothermia, frost bite and death.

"When you have these cold temperatures, it doesn't take very long for skin to freeze," National Weather Service meteorologist Rod Donavon said.

Having to venture out one time was enough for Gail Wordman, 44, of Tully, N.Y., as she picked up lunch at a restaurant just after 10 a.m.

"I had a doctor's appointment and was on my way back to the office. I figured I'd get a sandwich now so I don't have to come back out in this. ... my office is toasty warm," she said.

Ricky Blocker was grateful for his heated booth as he parked cars at a lot in downtown Syracuse. "Most of them are regulars. They have permits so I can just wave them in," he said.

Forecasters called for temperatures Saturday to climb into the low teens.

A wind chill advisory for most of central New York, including Onondaga, Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Oswego and Oneida counties, remained in effect through noon Saturday. Wind chill temperatures of 10 degrees below zero to 20 degrees below zero were expected.

The frostiest conditions were to the north, but the cold stretched as far south as Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.

Meanwhile, lake effect snow advisories were in effect for northern Cayuga County and the eastern Lake Ontario region of Oswego and Lewis counties. Forecasters said the squalls could dump up to an inch of snow each hour and leave behind 12 to 18 inches before they are through.

In Philadelphia, an alert issued Tuesday remained in effect Friday, calling on residents to report sightings of homeless people. City crews worked to repair a number of water main breaks after pipes ruptured due to the cold.

Elsewhere in Pennsylvania, wind chills as low as 25 below were reported in the greater Pittsburgh area. Forecasters expected 25-below wind chills in parts of northern Pennsylvania through Saturday morning.

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