US winter storm could hit record lows
THE United States authorities warned residents to stay indoors and stock up on food after a fierce winter storm killed at least 11 people, with forecasters saying on Saturday that the Arctic blast could hit record lows.
A state of emergency was declared in New York and New Jersey after heavy snow fell on Thursday, and there was no sign of respite from the brutal chill that has struck since the start of the year in parts of the north-eastern US and Canada.
One of the coldest Arctic outbreaks in the past two decades is now set to plunge the Midwest close to record lows, weather forecasters said, predicting Chicago could see some of its coldest weather on Monday, with temperatures hovering around minus 23 deg C.
Gusty winds could bring what forecasters at the National Weather Service called "very dangerous levels" of wind chill.
"Incredibly, it may feel as cold as minus 46 deg C to minus 51 deg C on Sunday night over sections of the north-central states, with the frigid air remaining in place into early next week," they said.
In such conditions, exposed skin would suffer frostbite in as little as five minutes, the forecasters cautioned.
The authorities have urged people in the worst-hit areas to spend the first weekend of the new year indoors for their own safety and to allow rescue and clean-up teams to get to work as quickly as possible.
In Minnesota, Governor Mark Dayton has already announced that schools will be closed today "to protect all our children from the dangerously cold temperatures", in a statement urging caution.
The storm has been the first big test for New York City's new mayor, Mr Bill de Blasio, who took up his job on Wednesday.
"If you want safe, clear streets, stay home," he said on Friday.
Thousands of domestic and international flights have been cancelled or delayed in several US cities - including at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport and in Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia - while thousands of miles of traffic were also snarled up.