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January 27, 2014

Persistent below-zero temps visit Midwest again

CHICAGO (AP) — Another winter day, another below-zero high for many parts of the Midwest.

The deep freeze has returned, bringing with it wind chills ranging from the negative teens to 40s, cancelations of schools and trains, and signs of resignation from parents forced to bring kids to work and residents who are tired of bundling up.

“We had two (employees) call in because they couldn’t come to work because of the school closings and another called in sick,” said Kristelle Brister, the manager of a downtown Chicago Starbucks who had to bring her 9-year-old son into the store because his school was closed. “It’s hard.”

A persistent weather pattern that’s driving Arctic air south was forecast to force temperatures to plummet for about 2 1/2 days, starting overnight Sunday. Actual temperatures will range from the teens in northern Kentucky to double-digits below zero in Minnesota, but even colder wind chills were expected — minus 43 in Minneapolis, minus 18 in Dayton, Ohio, minus 14 in Kansas City, Mo., and minus 3 in Louisville, Ky.

By sunrise today, weather forecasters in Chicago were telling viewers that the high temperature for the day had already come and gone and that the low may reach minus 4 degrees with wind chills at 40 below. Meanwhile, at a 24-hour drugstore in Omaha, Neb., where wind chills were 21 below, Amy Henry said she was longing for warmer weather.

“I just look at my (apartment) pool every day and say, ‘Oh, come on, summer,”’ the 36-year-old store clerk said.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Scott Blair stopped short of calling the latest round of cold part of the polar vortex, a system of winds that normally circulates around the North Pole.

“There’s really nothing abnormal about the air that’s coming into the area,” he said. “It’s just been a very persistent pattern” of cold air.

Despite the thermometer reading just 7 degrees in Grand Rapids, Mich., 47-year-old Gary Sloan said the cold would not disrupt his day. The salesman at Used Car Motor Mall said it’s just a matter of dressing correctly.

“This type of weather, you’ve got to come armored. You’ve got to have your snow pants. You’ve got to have your boots,” Sloan said.

At Chicago’s Union Station, several people hoping to take trains early today were told there would be no service until the afternoon. Homeless people, looking for places to stay warm, kept a watchful eye for security, knowing if they stayed in one place too long they would be kicked out.

“You have to keep moving around,” said Von Khan, 67, with big shopping bags in each hand and a backpack slung over his shoulder.

Frigid temperatures are expected to hold into Tuesday. If Chicago makes it to 60 hours below zero, it will be the longest stretch since 1983 — when it was below zero for 98 hours — and the third longest in 80 years.

Chicago Public Schools called off today’s classes for its nearly 400,000 students, as did suburban districts. Earlier this month, when it was below zero for 36 straight hours, CPS closed for two days.  

In the northern U.S., North Dakota and South Dakota residents dealt with dangerous cold and wind gusts Sunday that reached up to 60 mph — blowing snow to the point where it was nearly impossible to travel in some spots. On Monday, snow drifts kept Interstate 29 closed from Sioux Falls to the Canadian border before reopening in the morning. In Indiana, where 50 mph gusts were recorded early today, officials recommended only essential travel in more than half of its counties.

In Windom, southwestern Minnesota, drifting snow and whiteout conditions closed several highways Sunday, stranding about 70 people, including a bus full of hockey players, at a recreation center for the night.

The surprise guests included three dogs.

“You can’t very well keep your dogs out in the car,” said Greg Warner, manager of the Business Arts and Recreation Center.

In Michigan, which has in parts experienced its snowiest January on record, expressways closed as snow and subfreezing temperatures played a role in multiple crashes Sunday; at least three people died over the weekend because of weather-related accidents.

Business is far from usual this winter for Alex Alfidi, manager at Leo’s Coney Island restaurant in the Detroit suburb of Birmingham. His 24-hour restaurant been getting some carryout patrons, but the casual walk-in customers have stayed away.

“We slowed down big time,” said Alfidi, 39. He said he’s logged some challenging winters in his 15 years in Michigan.

“This is the biggest one,” he said.

 

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