Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Six Deaths Tied To Frigid Temperatures

Homeless people packed shelters, students got a day off from school, and drivers had to take their time as millions of people bundled up to meet subzero temperatures tied to at least six deaths.

The arctic cold front dipped into the nation from the Dakotas to New England. Water pipes burst and car batteries balked, forcing many businesses to close.

The highs Tuesday will only be between 0 and 10 above, from the Upper Midwest to interior sections of the Northeast, said CBS News meteorologist George Cullen (audio). "Coastal areas along with the cities from Philly to Boston will be in the upper teens to low 20's."

The cold contributed to two weekend deaths in Kentucky: an elderly man who wandered away from his home Sunday and a motorist whose car slid on ice and overturned in a river, authorities said. An 8-year-old girl and her mother were killed in a wreck on an icy road in Michigan, state police said. The body of a 47-year-old man was found outdoors in Ravenna, Ohio, and police said drunkenness contributed to his death. The medical examiner's office said 25-year-old Tamika Mitchell died in Chicago from both the cold and drug use combined.

Authorities were unsure whether to attribute other deaths to the extreme cold.

CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers reports hundreds of schools should be back in business after a surprising day off Monday. In Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan, the school buses wouldn't start, and it was far too cold to let any child walk to school.

With a temperature of 12 below zero and wind chill of 31 below, Wisconsin's largest school district, Milwaukee Public Schools, shut down, idling some 90,000 children.

In upstate New York, 34,000 kids got the day off in Rochester because of temperatures near zero. Schools also closed in parts of Michigan and Illinois. A few schools closed even in Minnesota, where February cold is the norm and people usually cope.

Indianapolis officials started school buses at 3 o'clock Tuesday morning to make sure they crank and could get the kids to school on time, reports Bowers, but coming home could be a problem. Five inches of snow are expected to fall, starting at lunch time.

Temperatures in Grand Forks, N.D., dipped to 31 below zero early Monday at the airport, 3 degrees lower than the records set in 1982 and 1967, the National Weather Service said. In northern Minnesota, the temperature crashed to 42 below Monday morning, the weather service said.

Among shelters trying to aid the homeless was Repairers of the Breach, a daytime shelter that has expanded its hours to stay open 24 hours a day since Friday as temperatures plunged below zero. The shelter doesn't have beds but provides blankets, pillows and meals for people who had nowhere else to go because other shelters were full, said MacCanon Brown, executive director.

Fifty-one people stayed Sunday night.

"Once this cold spell hit we were just so aware that there are so many people outside or in unheated places," Brown said. "We know that there would be a lot of deaths and terrible frostbite and hypothermia if we weren't open."

Without her center, "most of them would be living in bushes, unheated garages, abandoned buildings," Brown said. "They do come in our door. They feel very welcomed."

Amtrak shut down passenger service in parts of New York state, where the cold was accompanied by as much as 2 feet of snow. North of Syracuse, some areas had received nearly 3 feet, and the snow was continuing, said Cullen. "These bands, though, are very narrow, as you can go from 30 inches of snow to just flurries in only a 20-mile drive."

In Illinois, the cold forced Amtrak officials to cancel two trains scheduled to run between St. Louis and Chicago Monday evening.

In Kentucky, snowfall of up to 6 inches was forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday in the central and eastern parts of the state, capping several days of below-normal temperatures that dropped into single digits around the state.

"I have long underwear on and I have leg warmers on and I have a sweater on and I have a vest on," said a Baltimore woman.

In Illinois, where temperatures in the northwest part of the state dipped as low as 15 below, a slight reprieve was in sight for Tuesday.

"It's bitterly cold ... (but) the coldest of it is over," said Mark Ratzer, a senior forecaster with the weather service. He said a low-pressure system and accompanying cloud cover should ease bitter temperatures slightly.

Temperatures reached minus 10 at O'Hare International Airport Monday, and with the wind, it felt more like minus 30 in Chicago, Ratzer said.

Frozen pipes closed one downtown Chicago Starbucks for several hours Monday, and employee Jerry Berry, 24, said some customers stood in disbelief for several moments before moving on to the next shop a few blocks away.

"We couldn't brew coffee because it was so cold," Berry said. "(This is) the worst day to have to have a situation like this."

A Buffalo, Minn., teenager who wanted to continue the family tradition of running around the garden barefoot during halftime of the Super Bowl game has learned a painful lesson.

It was 17 below zero at halftime Sunday and 18-year-old D.J. Brown ran outside in his T-shirt and jeans, threw off socks and shoes, and ran around the block for good measure.

D.J. says he was outside only five minutes, but his feet started swelling and blistering when he got back inside. He was treated for second-degree frostbite on both feet and should be fine, but it'll take a few weeks.

D.J., a straight-A student, chalked up his actions to "teenage arrogance."

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