Bone-chillingly cold start to 2018 for parts of US

Bone-chillingly cold start to 2018 for parts of US
Bundled-up people are reflected by the Cloud Gate at Millennium Park in Chicago yesterday. Picture: AP

Bone-chilling cold has gripped the middle of the US, putting paid to some new year's celebrations and leading to at least two deaths attributed to exposure to the elements.

The US National Weather Service issued wind chill advisories covering a vast area from south Texas all the way to Canada and from Montana and Wyoming in the west through to New England to the northern tip of Maine.

Dangerously low temperatures enveloped eight Mid West states including parts of Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and Nebraska, along with nearly all of Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota.

The weather service said a temperature of minus 15F (minus 26C) was recorded in Omaha before midnight on Sunday, breaking a record low dating back to 1884. The reading did not include the wind chill effect.

Last week, Omaha officials cited the forecast in postponing the 18th annual New Year's Eve fireworks spectacular that draws around 30,000 people.

It was even colder in Des Moines at -29C, with wind chill dipping to minus -35C.

Des Moines officials have closed a city centre outdoor ice skating plaza and said it will not reopen until the city emerges from sub-zero temperatures.

The wind chill dipped to -38C in Duluth, Minnesota, a city known for its bitter cold winters.

Steam rose up from Lake Superior as a ship moved through the harbour where ice was forming from the bitter cold.

An Indianapolis woman was in critical condition after she became confused in the snow and ice and turned her vehicle in the wrong direction, driving 150ft on a retention pond before her vehicle fell through the ice, according to WISH TV.

She managed to make an emergency call but the phone went dead when the ice cracked.

The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's office said two bodies found on Sunday showed signs of hypothermia.

They included a man in his fifties found on the ground in an alley and a 34-year-old man.

Milwaukee's annual Polar Bear Plunge at Bradford Beach on Lake Michigan could be even more dangerous than usual, a city official told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

The wind chill was expected to be about -23C by the time of the event.

"You're going to get hypothermic," said Milwaukee fire battalion chief Erich Roden.

"Everybody wants to do the polar plunge once in their life; it's a bucket list item. Unfortunately, it's something that can cause a lot of harm."

- AP

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