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Polar vortex chills Americans with another day of record cold temperatures

January 7, 2014 at 12:00 AM EDT
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The polar vortex held its grip over the U.S., bringing frigid winds to places accustomed to cold winters and even sending ice and snow into the Deep South. The record negative temperatures caused some towns in Indiana to lose power and stranded train passengers near Chicago. Judy Woodruff reports.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Bitter cold persisted and spread across much of the country today. Conditions were better suited to penguins than people and gave new meaning to the term blue states.

WOMAN: I’m wearing long underwear. I feel like I’m going skiing, but I’m not. I’m going to work.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Millions of Americans spent another long day in the icy grip of the polar vortex, from Washington, D.C., where readings started the day in the single digits…

WOMAN: As soon as I got out of work, I’m going to make sure I bundle up inside and stay there.

JUDY WOODRUFF: … to most of the Midwest and the Northeast and New England.

MAN: Twenty-eight below, 30 below, 40 below, of course, when you get that much farther, it doesn’t make a lot of difference.

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MAN: You bundle up in layers, whatever we have to use to stay warm.

MAN: Bundle in layers.


MAN: I’m using a towel as a scarf.


MAN: I’m using my wife’s scarf because I couldn’t find mine. So, that’s why I’m wearing a pink scarf.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And the Deep South joined the misery, as frigid air pushed all the way into the region. This is ice on the roads in Atlanta and snow in rural north Georgia. And this completely frozen fountain is in Greensboro, N.C.

Further South, vegetable and citrus crops in Florida are at risk. Farmers worked today to protect fields of potatoes and cabbage from the falling mercury.

MAN: It depends on how cold it gets and how deep it freezes. It could affect the top layer of potatoes. The cabbage crop, actually, in low 20s, it can be affected, so it can burn the top leaves.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Even places accustomed to cold winters had a shock. Chicago hit a record low for Monday’s date at minus 16 degrees, not counting the windchill. This is what it looked like when a man opened his window and let freezing winds pour inside.

In Indiana, about 30,000 people lost power overnight and with it their heat. They turned to generators, blankets or shelters to stay warm. Many schools in the Midwest stayed closed for a second day today.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder:

GOV. RICK SNYDER, R-Mich.: This isn’t the day to have the kids go out and build a snowman or an igloo. The conditions are such where it’s not safe to be out in this cold for very long.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Black ice and slick patches on the roads were another danger, with the number of spinouts and rollovers growing by the hour. And more than 500 Amtrak passengers got off trains they had spent the night on and climbed into buses to their destination, Chicago.

Blowing, drifting snow had been stuck on the tracks since Central Illinois since yesterday afternoon.

WOMAN: We did have power, we did have blankets, and we’re truly happy about that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But one part of the country escaped the deep freeze, sunny Southern California, with temperatures in the 70s.

WOMAN: The fact that it is the beginning of January and I’m eating a cup of ice cream is awesome.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Starting tomorrow, those still suffering through the cold can expect somewhat warmer weather, at least near or above freezing.