Dangerously Cold Weather Felt Across Much Of U.S.


Historically cold weather is moving through the Midwest. In some areas, forecasters predict the coldest temperatures since 1996.

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Here's news many of you know already - it's cold, really cold, even dangerously so in much of the United States; and another Arctic blast is expected. We are talking about temperatures 25-below zero in North Dakota. And the South isn't being spared; it's single digits in some spots in Georgia and Alabama.

Chuck Quirmbach, from Wisconsin Public Radio, reports.

CHUCK QUIRMBACH, BYLINE: School officials have known for days that the subzero temperatures were coming, and made the decision Friday to close all public schools in Minnesota and many in Wisconsin. Milwaukee Public Schools spokesperson Tony Tagliavia says the district didn't want to risk exposing children and staff to the frigid conditions.

TONY TAGLIAVIA: These are temperatures at which it's actually dangerous to spend even small amounts of time outside, between the temperature and the wind chill. And that's what's driving our safety concern, and that safety concern is what drove us to close school.

QUIRMBACH: On the other hand, homeless shelters are seeing more people come through their doors. About 20 men gather in the TV room at the Guest House shelter in Milwaukee. One of them, Tony Lee, says he spent a little time outside during the day yesterday - and that was enough.

TONY LEE: Oh, you know, you've got to bundle up, get layered up. And man, everybody was like, moving slowly. You know, cars was moving slow 'cause it was cold. Some cars wouldn't start. You know, you were ready to (unintelligible) out there.

QUIRMBACH: Guest House Executive Director Cindy Krahenbuhl says it's frigid enough outside that even those men who don't like to be in shelters are coming in.

CINDY KRAHENBUHL: So when it gets this cold - deadly cold - we know those people need to be inside. And so we're very grateful that we're able to do our overflow operation of at least 15 additional beds.

QUIRMBACH: Guest House says it will adjust its rules. And instead of asking all the men to leave during daylight hours, will allow them to stay. National Weather Service forecaster Jeff Boyne says the source of all the cold air is far Northern Canada, in the Yukon.

JEFF BOYNE: Temperatures up there were in the minus-30 to minus-40-degree range. And that air mass has been moving southward with it since the midpart of last week.

QUIRMBACH: Boyne says it shouldn't be quite that cold in the Upper Midwest today into tomorrow, but he says temperatures will be well below normal. Much of the cold will eventually penetrate the Southern and Eastern U.S. Broadcasters talked a lot about the bitter conditions during yesterday's National Football League playoff game in Green Bay, won by the San Francisco 49ers by the score of 23 to 20. Game temperatures hovered around zero. But afterwards, players said the cold wasn't that bad. And Packers Coach Mike McCarthy, instead, took the blame.

MIKE MCCARTHY: We knew we needed to score more than 20 points today, and I didn't get that done.

QUIRMBACH: Packers fans may spend much of today inside brooding about the loss - because it may be too cold to do so outside.

For NPR News, I'm Chuck Quirmbach in Milwaukee.

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