Millions warned of cold risk from wind chills

January 08, 2014 - 6:51:28 am
NEW YORK: Millions of Americans from Montana down to as far south as Alabama are being warned that their lives are at risk if they venture out for any length of time into brutally cold conditions that are driving temperatures to their lowest in 20 years.

Severe weather warnings from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for Minnesota and Wisconsin said that wind chills caused by gusts of up to 30 mph were causing temperatures to plummet to between -37C and -46C. “Exposed flesh will freeze and cause frost bite in only five minutes,” the warning observed.

Twenty six states continue to be under federal warnings for severe wind chills as bitterly cold air is swept down from the Arctic, with Montana recording a wind chill of -52C. 

As a sign of the extraordinary nature of the weather pattern, the federal government has even issued a wind chill warning for Florida. It said that the very cold Arctic air mass would drive temperatures in the north of the state below zero fahrenheit. 

In Indianapolis, where thousands were struggling without power, mayor Greg Ballard raised a travel warning to red making it illegal to use the roads unless for emergencies. He used his Twitter feed to inform residents how to find shelter.

Forecasters said some 187 million people could feel the effects of the “polar vortex” by the time it spreads across the US. Even the south was startlingly cold. Temperatures plunged to -13C in Atlanta on Monday. 

The polar vortex is a persistent area of low pressure, moving anti-clockwise above the north pole, which sucks warm air up from the south. 

Fluctuations in the jet stream have led to its pushing cold air much further south than usual, leading to this week’s bitterly cold conditions.

The Guardian
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