(AP) – The deep freeze that broke records in hundreds of cities across the eastern half of the United States on Friday will last most of next week.
Another widespread round of ice, snow or freezing rain is set to start falling Saturday from Missouri to the mid-Atlantic and as far south as Alabama and Georgia.
“Higher amounts over the next two days will probably be across southern Indiana and Illinois and eastward through Ohio into western Pennsylvania,” said Bruce Sullivan, a senior meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “That’s where it looks like the jackpot will be.”
However, even before the latest snowstorm, residents had to deal with school cancellations, power outages, road hazards and water main breaks from the punishing cold.
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“Polar vortex” is so last year. Forecasters are calling the record-setting bout of icy air the “Siberian Express” because winds coming from Russia are traveling over the Arctic Circle and pushing into Canada and the United States.
“We can almost show the trajectory from Siberia all the way to the U.S.,” Sullivan said, noting meteorologists began using the term long ago.
Despite being the buzzword of winter 2014, polar vortex also has been used for decades in meteorology. It is a pocket of very cold air that typically swirls around the North Pole.
“Sometimes little pieces break off,” Sullivan said. That has also happened this week, meaning a frosty one-two punch.
Schools in Alabama sent students home early and NASA shut down its Huntsville facility Friday as a storm began unloading ice, sleet and snow. The weather service said roads were impassable in at least seven counties.
Dozens of school systems dismissed students early or canceled classes altogether. NASA closed early at its Marshall Space Flight Center because of deteriorating road conditions.
Huntsville and the rest of the state’s northeastern corner is under a winter storm warning through early Saturday, and forecasters say much of northern Alabama and Georgia could get snow and sleet, including metro Atlanta.
___BONE-CHILLING AND RECORD-BREAKING
Bitter cold temperatures have shattered decades-old records from Cincinnati to Washington to New York.
The National Weather Service said the low Friday got down to 6 degrees at Reagan National Airport, just across the Potomac River from Washington. At Baltimore’s airport, the temperature dipped to a record low 2 degrees.
In western Pennsylvania, temperatures dipped to minus 18 in New Castle, minus 15 in Butler and 6 below zero in Pittsburgh — all records.
Records also were set at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey (1 degree); Trenton, N.J. (zero degrees); New York’s Central Park (2 degrees); and Cincinnati (12 degrees below zero).
A Boston-bound commuter ferry carrying more than 100 passengers had trouble steering in the ice and had to be towed to port.
The ferry Massachusetts departed Hingham at about 8:30 a.m. Friday right behind an ice breaker, said Alison Nolan, an official with Boston Harbor Cruises. After the ferry went off course, the ice breaker towed it to Boston, arriving about 45 minutes later than normal. No one was hurt and the boat was not damaged.
Ferry service was canceled elsewhere in the Northeast. The Cape May-Lewes Ferry, which connects Delaware and New Jersey, halted operations because of ice and wind. Ferries on New York’s East River also were canceled.
A 12-inch water main break in the Rhode Island town of Johnston, which interrupted service to about 1,000 customers, took about 16 hours for crews to repair. They battled through snow and frozen ground in below-zero temperatures to get to the broken pipe after using leak detection equipment to pinpoint the exact location.
And after a 6-inch water main broke in Rutland, Vermont, and workers “braved the elements and were willing to get soaked to the skin” in brutally cold temperatures to fix it, the city’s Public Works Department declared: “Mission accomplished” on its Facebook page. The Friday morning break in the city of some 16,000 residents spilled water onto the streets for hours, contributing to icy driving conditions.
___ANOTHER KIND OF ISLAND LIVING
The Virginia National Guard flew in food, medicine and mail to an ice-bound fishing and tourism outpost in the middle of Chesapeake Bay, 14 miles from the mainland.
The mayor of Tangier Island, Mayor James “Ooker” Eskridge, played down its plight but said medicines were essential for those who could not get off the island. Tangier has no drugstore.
“But you know, we’re not starving out here,” he said. “This happens when you live in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay.”
___NIAGARA FALLS SPECTACLE DRAWS TOURISTS
The deep freeze transformed Niagara Falls into an icy spectacle, encasing the trees around it into crystal shells and drawing tourists who are braving below-zero temperatures.
The Niagara River is flowing below the ice cover, so the falls aren’t completely frozen.
But days of subzero temperatures have created a thick coating of ice and snow on every surface near the falls, including railings, trees and boulders. The massive ice buildup has become a tourist magnet.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press