At least nine dead following bone-chilling cold weather in US

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Associated Press

Dangerously cold temperatures blamed for at least nine deaths have wreaked havoc across a wide swath of the US, freezing a water tower in Iowa, halting ferry service in New York and leading officials to open warming centres even in the Deep South.

Cold temperatures are wreaking havoc across the US, and are already to blame for nine deaths.
Source: Associated Press

The National Weather Service issued wind chill advisories and freeze warnings overnight covering a vast area from South Texas to Canada and from Montana through New England.

Indianapolis yesterday tied a record low of  -24C for January 2 set in 1887, leading Indianapolis Public Schools to cancel classes.

And the northwest Indiana city of Lafayette got down to -28C, shattering the previous record of -21C for the date, set in 1979, the National Weather Service said.

After residents there began complaining of a hum, Duke Energy said it was caused by extra power surging through utility lines to meet electricity demands.

"The temperatures are certainly extreme, but we've seen colder," said Joseph Nield, a meteorologist in Indianapolis, noting that the all-time low temperature in Indiana was -38C in 1994.

Nevertheless, the cold is nothing to trifle with, forecasters warned.

With Chicago-area wind chills expected between -37 and -29C, forecasters warned of frost bite and hypothermia risks and urged residents to take precautions, including dressing in layers, wearing a hat and gloves, covering exposed skin and bringing pets indoors.

In Tennessee, corrections officials at a maximum security prison were using portable heaters and extra blankets to keep inmates and employees warm. The facility lost hot water pressure Monday, causing its boiler to go offline.

Atlanta hospitals were seeing a surge in emergency room visits for hypothermia and other ailments as temperatures plunge well below freezing. The temperature in Atlanta fell to -11 degrees Celsius before dawn in Tuesday (local time).

The cold is blamed in at least nine deaths in the past week.

Police in St. Louis said a homeless man found dead inside a trash bin Monday evening apparently froze to death as the temperature dropped to negative -21C. Sheriff's officials in Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin, said a 27-year-old woman whose body was found Monday evening on the shore of Lake Winnebago likely died of exposure.

The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office said two men whose bodies were found Monday showed signs of hypothermia. Police believe the cold weather also may have been a factor in the death of a man in Bismarck, North Dakota, whose body was found near a river.

Warming shelters were opened across the South as freeze watches and warnings blanketed the region, including hard freeze warnings for much of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Arctic temperatures also caused problems on waterways, for both waterfowl and boats. Firefighters in Richmond, Virginia, freed a swan that was stuck for hours Monday in the middle of a frozen pond.

In New York, transportation officials suspended the Newburgh-Beacon commuter ferry service on Tuesday because of icy conditions on the Hudson River. Just north, the city of Poughkeepsie saw a record-breaking low of -12C on New Year's Day.

Now forecasters are tracking a storm that could bring snow and ice to the East Coast later this week.

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