Four pictures are worth four thousand words:
The St. Joseph Lighthouse on North Pier, Lake Michigan, on Jan. 6, 2014; Photographer: HotSpot/Landov
Ice builds up along Lake Michigan at North Avenue Beach as temperatures dipped well below zero in Chicago on Jan. 6, 2014; Photographer: Scott Olson/Getty Images
A pedestrian covers her face to keep warm in New York; Photographer: Jin Lee/Bloomberg
A man uses a snow blower to clear snow in New York on Jan. 3, 2014, Photographer: Jin Lee/Bloomberg
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And now, some stories, via Bloomberg:
Yesterday’s low in Chicago reached a record for the date of minus 16 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 27 Celsius), beating the mark of minus 14 set in 1884 and 1988, according to the National Weather Service. Today, New York’s high will struggle to reach 10 degrees, a day after Central Park reached 50. As of 7 a.m., it was 5 degrees in New York and 13 in Boston.
“It is a pretty ferocious air mass coming down,” said Tom Kines, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. “Across the upper Midwest it stayed below zero and will stay below zero and that air is coming eastward.”
The frigid weather strangled transportation routes around the country including interstate highways, airlines and rails. It also led to a surge in energy demand that pushed power in Texas to more than $5,000 a megawatt-hour for the first time and caused disruptions at oil refineries in Tennessee and Illinois.
The natural gas-weighted heating degree days value is expected to be 46.5 today, according to Commodity Weather Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland, beating the century’s previous high of 45.1 set on Jan. 16, 2009. Natural gas-weighted heating degrees subtract the daily average temperatures in cities nationwide from 65, then weight the totals based on population and use of the fuel for heating.
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The cold air blowing across the Great Lakes may bring 24 inches of snow to parts of western New York by tonight, according to the weather service. The region is expected to be whipped by wind chills of minus 30.
“The lake snow belts are going to get walloped,” said James Aman, a senior meteorologist with Earth Networks, Inc. in Germantown, Maryland.
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Valero Corp.’s Memphis refinery in Tennessee had a system shutdown because of low temperatures in the area, according to a filing with the U.S. National Response Center. Exxon Mobil Corp. had some “problems” with unidentified process units at its Joliet, Illinois, refinery because of extreme cold weather, according to a separate filing. U.S. companies must notify the center if they release hazardous substances. Bloomberg couldn’t immediately verify the information.
Record lows for the date were set or tied across the northern tier of the country. The low of minus 13 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, beat the old mark of minus 12 set in 1970, according to the weather service. In Burlington, Iowa, the mercury fell to minus 14, which was also recorded in 1970.
The lowest temperature of the day was minus 40 in Brimson, Minnesota, according to the U.S. Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.
Among today’s forecast highs are 5 in Chicago, 17 in Washington and 26 in Atlanta.
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While the heart of the cold is shifting east, it will still maintain its grip on the central U.S., Aman said. He said the weather will start to warm in a couple of days.
“By Wednesday morning a lot of your big cities will be in single digits and during the day Wednesday we start to come out of it,” Aman said. “Things will be much more tolerable by Wednesday afternoon and we see some continued warming by Thursday.”
Temperatures in New York are expected to bounce back to 39 by the end of the week, according to the weather service. On Jan. 13 it may reach 53, according to MDA Weather Services in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Chicago’s high may reach 39 by Jan. 12 and Washington 57 by Jan. 13, according to MDA.