Nightly News   |  January 05, 2014

Arctic Temperatures Bring Winter Woes

Winter weather is producing some of the coldest temperatures in decades. States are taking unprecedented action to protect residents. NBC’s Kevin Tibbles reports.

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>>> a big part of the country is bracing for some of the coldest weather we've seen in two decades. temperatures of 20 or 30 below zero could hit the midwest before moving south and east. our team has coverage to that. we begin with kevin tibbles in minneapolis, st. paul . good evening.

>> reporter: here in minneapolis, street paul and across the heartland, the national weather service is calling it a particularly damaging situation. as the temperatures plummet they're urging people to stay indoors and take precautions. it hasn't been this cold in decades.

>> we've never experienced weather this cold. ever.

>> reporter: an arctic front sent temperatures plunging 30 to 50 degrees below average across the midwest leaving 25 states in temperatures 0 or lower. unrelenling snow battered parts of the plains and great lakes. in indiana, up to two inches of snow every hour throughout the day. chicago saw seven inches overnight while michigan got up to ten.

>> temperatures that are potentially deadly or certainly --

>> reporter: the st . louis fire chief asking residents to watch out for one another.

>> pay attention to your neighbors. see what they need and take care of them.

>> reporter: states are taking unprecedented measures to keep people out of the cold. for the first time in 17 years, classes at minnesota public schools canceled. in st. paul , parks and sledding hills closed. the elderly and the homeless are at the greatest risk. emergency workers are on high alert to help the most vulnerable. youth centers provide overnight 68 to homeless kids afraid of sleeping in adult shelters.

>> we brought in extra food and the youth are here from 8:00 p.m . until 8:00 a.m .

>> reporter: the frigid conditions have also paralyzed air travel . more than 3,000 flights canceled and another 6,000 delayed. clogging hubs like denver, chicago and even florida. boston's logan airport saying it will take days to catch up. in new york, jfk was shut down for hours after a plane skidded off an icy runway. black ice being blamed for pileups in new york, maryland and pennsylvania.

>> cars are just spinning out. this is ridiculous.

>> reporter: but in green bay , the cold didn't keep tens of thousands of fans away from the packers/49ers game.

>> wisconsin natives. we can't help it.

>> reporter: the fans are ready but it will be dangerously cold. 5 degrees at game time . it will feel like minus 15. but the coldest air is still yet to come. tomorrow with the windchill it will feel like 50 degrees below zero.

>> reporter: the arctic blast is headed east where icestorm warnings have been issued in virginia, maryland and d.c.

>> reporter: with wind gusts topping 35 miles an hour, windchills are dropping below 40 below zero. how cold is that? well, the smithsonian says that is colder than it is on mars. and mars is a lot further away from the sun than we are.