The bitterly cold weather that gripped the nation over the weekend has been blamed for at least 17 deaths since Saturday — and now a second punch of equally arctic air has settled in over large areas of the East, the Midwest and the South.
While last week's freeze focused on the Rockies and the Plains, this bout homed in on the Midwest and spread to the Northeast and the South on Monday. Boston, New York and Washington, D.C. Forecasters said the new temperature drop Monday would bring as much as 3 feet of lake-effect snow around the Great Lakes over the next two days, with the heaviest dump coming from Cleveland to Buffalo, New York.
"It's going to be painful," said Kevin Roth, lead meteorologist for The Weather Channel. "You're talking 24 to 36 inches coming down at a rate of up to five or six inches an hour — that's what we mean when we say 'intense.'"
In addition to 11 people previously reported to have died on dangerous roads over the weekend, authorities on Monday blamed snow and ice in three more deaths Sunday and three others so far Monday:
- A 45-year-old woman died Sunday near Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, after she lost control off her car, ran off the road and hit a tree, the Adams County Sheriff's Department said Monday.
- A 37-year-old woman and a 15-year-old boy were killed overnight Sunday when boy lost control of his car an ice-covered bridge slid into the path of a U-Haul truck near the town of Cabool, the Missouri State Highway Patrol said Monday.
- Ice was blamed for in a single-vehicle crash that killed a 16-year-old high school student whose pickup truck drove off the road and into a tree Monday morning in Rome Township in southeast Michigan, the Lenawee County Sheriff's Department said.
- A man was killed in a two-vehicle crash caused when one of the drivers slipped off an ice-slickened road and overcorrected early Monday, in Fairborn, Ohio, near Dayton, police said. Three to five inches of new snow fell overnight in the Dayton, and it will remain stuck as ice for several days with temperatures falling into the teens, with wind chills in the single digits, NBC station WDTN reported.
- And in Omaha, Nebraska, a 16-year-old boy died after he was hospitalized for exposure over the weekend in the town of Fremont, where wind chills reached minus-7 Sunday, Fremont police said Monday.
While the second flow of arctic air looks and feels like the polar vortex that iced over the country last winter, it's a different phenomenon this time around — an "Omega block," so named because on a weather map it looks like the Greek letter Omega. Regions east and southeast of the stalled block of air coming in from the arctic usually get temperatures much colder than normal.
This one began swooping in from Canada's Northwest Territories and Alaska over the weekend, and it's controlling the weather as far south as Texas and east to the Atlantic Coast, the National Weather Service said Monday. Ahead of it, the system pushed thunderstorm cells into the Deep South on Monday mornng, spinning off a handful of tornadoes in Georgia and Florida.
Two employees were slightly injured and buildings were damaged at the state prison facilty near Blountstown in Florida's Panhandle, the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office said, while a mobile home was blown over when a tornado touched down near Warner Robins, Georgia, according to the National Weather Service.
"By Tuesday, the whole eastern half of the United States will have temperatures from 15 to 30 degrees below average," said Tom Moore, a coordinating meteorologist for The Weather Channel.
But even as the new storm was still arriving, more than half of the Lower 48 was aslready covered in snow, according to the National Weather Service. Last year on this date, just 12 percent of the country had snow.
Highs never got out of the teens in most of Iowa, where snow showers and gathering winds were forecast to send wind chills below freezing overnight.
In Oklahoma City, the cold burst a water pipe Monday, sending 2,100 gallons of water rushing through the Oklahoma County jail. At least two computers were destroyed, and sever security cameras were out of commission for a brief time, the sheriff's office said.
Louisville, Kentucky, shattered its 53-year-old snow record for Nov. 17, recording 2.9 inches at Louisville International Airport — almost 10 times the 0.3 inches set in 1951. Temperatures on Monday night could also break the record low of 13 degrees, set the same year.
School was delayed for two hours Monday as snow started falling about 7 a.m. Lexington police said they were responding to at least 22 weather-related accidents, which injured at least two people.
"At 5 this morning, I thought, 'They about lost their mind,' and about 7 I'm thinking it was a good call," Lexington father Enoch Harding told NBC station WLEX. "I appreciate them delaying by a couple of hours. It could've been kind of bad for a lot of people if they hadn't."
Meanwhile, park rangers said they were ready for another wave of cold-stunned turtles to wash up on Texas' Gulf shore after 118 freezing, nearly comatose turtles washed up along Corpus Christi Bay.
"They tend to be piled up on the shoreline sent there by the prevailing north winds during these strong fronts," Donna Shaver, chief of sea turtle science and recovery at the National Park Service's Padre Island National Seashore, told NBC station KRIS of Corpus Christi.