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New year brings record low temperatures, cold eyed in eight deaths

Freezing temperatures were felt across the U.S., and authorities said the cold may have caused or contributed to deaths in North Dakota, Wisconsin and Michigan.
Image: Revelers gather in Times Square as a cold weather front hits the region ahead of New Year's celebrations in Manhattan, New York
Revelers gather in Times Square as a cold weather front hits the region ahead of New Year's celebrations on December 31, 2017 in New York.Andrew Kelly / Reuters

The new year brought dangerously frigid temperatures to much of the United States, with record lows set from New York to Iowa and authorities saying the cold could be connected to at least eight deaths.

In Detroit, where the mercury plunged to -2 degrees on Sunday night, an unidentified dead man was found sitting outside the Shady Grove Church on the city’s east side on Monday morning, NBC affiliate WDIV reported.

Police said the man may have frozen to death, according to the station.

In Milwaukee, where it was a couple of degrees colder than Detroit, the county medical examiner said the bodies of two men — a 34 and 50-year-old — found separately on Sunday showed signs of hypothermia, the Associated Press reported.

In Bismarck, North Dakota, where temperatures registered a bone-chilling -27, the police believe the cold may have led to the death of a man whose body was found near a river, according to the AP.

And in at least four other cities — Charleston, West Virginia; St. Louis, Missouri; Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin; and Nashville, Tennessee — four people were found dead amid frigid temperatures.

Record or near-record lows, meanwhile, were recorded in Chicago, Buffalo, Des Moines and Omaha. When the ball dropped in New York City on Sunday night, it was 9 degrees — the second coldest New Year's Eve on record after Dec. 31, 1917, according to NBC New York meteorologist Raphael Miranda.

The high for Des Moines was 1 degree below zero, which is the second-coldest high on New Year's Day since -6 degrees in 1885, the National Weather Service said.

In Chicago, where the weather service put Monday's low at -9 degrees, Macy Carpenter told NBC Chicago that she’d been sent home from her job — at an ice rink.

"It's too cold to send employees outside," Carpenter said.

Bicycle messenger Brian Carter wasn’t so lucky. To prepare for a day of sub-freezing temperatures in the saddle, he told the station he was wearing two pairs of gloves, thermals, two pairs of pants, an extra hoodie, a mask, a jacket, a hat and three pairs of socks.

In Qunicy, Illinois, fire chief Joe Henning said that two of the department’s trucks had frozen, while in Michigan, on Interstate 94 outside Kalamazoo, whiteout conditions on Sunday led to a pile-up that authorities said may involve as many as 50 cars, according to NBC affiliate WOOD.

"These vehicles that are driving out here right now are driving way too fast," Michigan State Police Lt. Dale Hinz said, the station reported.

Despite the frigid temperatures, hundreds of people thronged the beaches of Coney Island for the 114th annual plunge into the Atlantic Ocean.

Among them was Jo Franco, who told NBC New York that she flew from Los Angeles for the occasion.

"If you can withstand this, you’re ready for anything in 2018," she told the station. "That's what I’m trying to do."