iconimg Wednesday, May 06, 2015

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
Washington DC, January 08, 2014
The polar air that froze most of the midwestern states of the US over the weekend spread to the east and south shutting down schools, disrupting flights and killing at least 21 people. Temperatures plunged to the lowest in decades, with all 50 states reaching freezing point at some point on Tuesday, even the usually warmer southern states.

The midwest and the east were colder than much of Antarctica, and some parts of planet Mars.

New York City's Central Park broke a 118-year-record Tuesday morning when the temperature there dropped to -15° Celsius beating its previous low of -14.4° Celsius.

The town of Embarrass, Minnesota, recorded the lowest temperature Tuesday at -37° Celsius. With wind chill factor pushing temperatures down to -52° Celsius in some parts.

In fact, it may be colder in this part than in some parts of planet Mars, which back daily temperature readings from its tour of the Red Planet ranging from -25° Celsius to -31° Celsius.

Records tumbled all across the country: -26° Celsius in Chicago, Illinois; -13.8° Celsius in Birmingham, Alabama; -16° Celsius in Nashville, Tennessee; and -13° Celsius in Little Rock.

More than 2,900 flights were canceled on Tuesday, according to flight tracker FlightAware.com. That compared with nearly 4,600 cancellations on Monday.

Chicago O'Hare airport was one of the hardest hit, where about 31% of flights were canceled; and Toronto Pearson airport in Canada saw 19% of its total flights getting cancelled.

Power utilities all across the country grappled with skyrocketing energy demands and outages. Natural gas demand in the US set a record, eclipsing the mark set a day earlier, according to an energy analyst at Bentek Energy.

Water lines either froze or burst in many parts.

The freezing temperatures have been blamed on something called the polar vortex, which has essentially a huge mass of cold air slipping off from above the north pole and moving south into the US.

Authorities reported at least 21 cold-related deaths across the country since Sunday, including seven in Illinois, and six in Indiana.

At least five people died while shoveling snow, while several victims were identified as homeless people who either refused shelter or didn't make it to a warm haven soon enough.

In Missouri on Monday, a 1-year-old boy was killed when the car he was riding in struck a snow plow, and a 20-year-old woman was killed in a separate crash caused by icy road conditions.

(With agency reports)