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Midwest temps plummet to well below zero

Temperatures across the upper Midwest crashed to Arctic levels Tuesday on the heels of yet another snowstorm, closing schools and making most people think twice before going outside.
Image: Butch Nelson
Butch Nelson is well bundled against the elements while clearing neighbors' properties of snow in Watertown, Wis., on Tuesday.John Hart / Watertown Daily Times via AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Temperatures across the upper Midwest crashed to Arctic levels Tuesday as a severe cold wave rolled in on the heels of yet another snowstorm, closing schools and making most people think twice before going outside. Thermometers read single digits early in the day as far south as Kansas and Missouri, where some areas warmed only into the teens by midday.

The ice and snow that glazed pavement was blamed for numerous traffic accidents from Minnesota to Indiana, where police said a truck overturned and spilled 43,000 pounds of cheese, closing a busy highway ramp during the night in the Gary area.

The bitter cold snap was responsible for at least one death Tuesday.

A 51-year-old man in northern Wisconsin died from exposure after wandering from his Hayward home early Tuesday, authorities said. His son reported him missing and said he was prone to sleepwalking, and deputies followed footprints in the snow to find the man about 190 yards from his house, Sawyer County Chief Deputy Tim Zeigle said.

AAA Michigan responded to 1,450 motorists across the state Tuesday morning, mostly to assist with dead batteries, spinouts and minor accidents after an early snowfall, said spokeswoman Nancy Cain.

Airlines had canceled more than 300 flights from Chicago's two airports in expectation of blizzard conditions Tuesday, Chicago Aviation Department spokesman Gregg Cunningham said. However, the weather service lifted blizzard warnings early Tuesday as the snow moved eastward.

'Not so bad' at -58
In Minnesota, some took it as just another winter day, even in the state's extreme northwest corner where thermometers bottomed out at 38 degrees below zero at the town of Hallock and the National Weather Service said the wind chill was a shocking 58 below.

"It's really not so bad," Robert Cameron, 75, said as he and several friends gathered for morning coffee at the Cenex service station in Hallock. "We've got clothing that goes with the weather. ... We're ready and rolling, no matter what."

"It's so beautiful. There's not a cloud in the sky," said Keith Anderson, 66. But he said that's not stopping him from skipping town at the end of the week to spend a couple of months in Nevada and Arizona.

Outside, one of the station's gas pumps froze up at least once, and assistant manager Terrie Franks had to go out to apply deicer spray.

"You definitely have to have gloves on because touching the cold metal — your hands are frozen," Franks said by telephone.

The weather service warned that exposed flesh can freeze in 10 minutes when the wind chill is 40 degrees below zero or colder.

At about 8 a.m., temperatures were minus 40 in International Falls and minus 35 in Roseau. Farther south, Minneapolis hit 18 below zero with a wind chill of 32 below and black ice was blamed for numerous accidents.

Some areas saw blizzard conditions.

"It's like a sea of whiteness; people can't see the road," said Rebecca Arndt, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation in Mankato. "When the white fluffy stuff starts to blow, it is not pretty."

In neighboring North Dakota, Grand Forks dropped to a record low for Jan. 13 of 37 below zero, lopping six degrees off the old record set in 1979, the National Weather Service said.

Schools were closed because of the cold as far south as Iowa, and authorities in Grand Rapids, Mich., went out urging the homeless to seek shelter.

At least two-thirds of Ohio was under a winter weather advisory and a blizzard watch covers a few counties as the state braces for more snow, wind and colder temperatures.

Heading east
The leading edge of the cold air was expected to strike the Northeast, mid-Atlantic and South late Tuesday and Wednesday. Residents in the Atlanta area could see temperatures in the high teens.

And meteorologists warned that a second wave could drop temperatures into the single digits Friday in the mid-Atlantic region.

What was left of that snowstorm was blowing eastward along the Great Lakes.

In Grand Rapids, Michigan's second-largest city, The Grand Rapids Press reported police and fire crews would visit spots frequented by the homeless and urge them to go to a shelter.

"We don't want anyone in jeopardy," said Grand Rapids police Lt. Ralph Mason. "We're going to find a way to help."

Indiana police reported numerous crashes on slippery highways, including a truck that overturned and spilled 43,000 pounds of cheese, closing a busy highway ramp during the night in the Gary area.

'Snowed in'
In North Dakota, the Minot area got 6 inches of snow on Monday, on top of about a foot that fell late last week, and Bismarck collected 4. Bismarck, Fargo and Grand Forks all broke snow records for December, each with more than 30 inches.

Road departments have had little time to clear away the snow between storms.

"Four-wheel drives are useless — people are just snowed in," said Rhonda Woodhams, office manager for the Williams County, N.D. "People are calling in saying they're out of milk and diapers for their kids, or they have doctor appointments they need to get to. We're doing our best. And we don't need no more snow."

The weight of the snow in Bismarck collapsed a roof during the weekend and crushed nine mint-condition muscle cars from the 1960s and 1970s, said Steven Jaskoviak, owner of Skovy's Autoplex. He estimated their value at more than $300,000.

"Those can be replaced," Jaskoviak said Monday. "But by the grace of God, no one was hurt. We had more than 100 people in the showroom on Saturday, and if it would have happened then there would have been loss of life."