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SKYE on AOL

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    Updated Saturday, Jan. 4, 2013, 3:38 p.m. ET

    Sanitation trucks outfitted with snow plows clear Fifth Avenue of snow, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, in New York. New York City public schools were closed Friday after up to 7 inches of snow fell by morning in the first snowstorm of the winter. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

    NEW YORK (AP) - A winter storm slammed the U.S. Northeast with howling winds and frigid cold, dumping nearly 2 feet of snow on some areas and leaving 14 people dead amid blizzard-like conditions Friday.

    As motorists and homeowners in the eastern U.S. began digging out of the snow and ice, officials from the upper Midwest to New England were preparing for another arctic blast over the next few days that could be even worse.

    By midday Friday, about 2,200 flights were canceled nationwide, according to the aviation tracking website FlightAware.com. Most were in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

    Governors in New York and New Jersey declared states of emergency, urging residents to stay at home. Hundreds of schools were shut down in Boston and New York, extending the holiday break for tens of thousands of students.

    "This is nothing to be trifled with," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. "People should seriously consider staying in their homes."

    The heaviest snow fell north of Boston in Boxford, Massachusetts, which received nearly 2 feet. Nearly 18 inches fell in Boston and in western New York near Rochester. New York's Central Park and Philadelphia each got 6 inches.

    The storm has led to at least 14 deaths as it sweeps across the eastern half of the U.S. Slick roads have caused traffic deaths in Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois.

    A massive pile of salt fell on a worker at a Philadelphia storage facility, killing him. And authorities say a woman with Alzheimer's disease froze to death after she wandered away from her rural New York home.

    Forecasters said temperatures were plummeting to well below freezing, and wind chill readings could hit minus 10 Fahrenheit.

    Another wave of cold air already was moving through the Midwest after coming down from Canada.

    Outreach teams were searching streets in New York City and Boston for homeless people at risk of freezing to death.

    Some major highways in New York state were shut down overnight, and some commuter trains around New York City were operating on a reduced schedule.

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ordered nonessential state workers to stay home Friday. State offices and courthouses were closed. State offices were also closed in Massachusetts.

    The heavy weather began rolling in Thursday, just a day after New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was sworn in to lead the nation's largest city.

    De Blasio, who in 2010 criticized predecessor Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his handling of a post-Christmas storm, said 1,700 snowplows and 450 salt spreaders hit the streets.

    "I feel great about the response," De Blasio said Friday after shoveling the sidewalk outside his Brooklyn home.

    PHOTOS: First Winter Storm of 2014 Socks Northeast

     

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    Updated Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014, 3:34 p.m. ET

    Teagan Driscoll, 14, left, Claire Leamon, 12, center, and Julia Soscia, 13, slide down the hill on the northeast side of the Stonington Borough viaduct Friday, Jan. 3, 2014 in Stonington, Conn.. (AP Photo/The Day, Sean D. Elliot)

    A winter storm dumped snow from the Midwest to New England and brought along teeth-chattering temperatures was blamed for at least 16 deaths. Freezing temperatures with below-zero wind chills in some places complicated life for residents from Minnesota to Maine and more cold blasts were in the forecast for the weekend and Monday.

    CONNECTICUT

    A 22-year-old man was fatally injured in one of more than 200 weather-related accidents reported in the state. Much of the state received 4 to 8 inches of snow.

    DELAWARE

    Transportation officials asked people to stay home Friday as total snowfall reached 7 inches in some areas.

    DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

    Offices of the federal government and the District of Columbia were open Friday, but workers were given the option to take leave or work from home after more than 2 inches of snow fell.

    ILLINOIS

    Nearly 17 inches of snow fell Thursday in some of Chicago's northern suburbs, and more than 12 inches of snow was recorded at Midway International Airport. The weather was blamed for two deaths, including a man who died in southern Illinois after having a heart attack while clearing snow. The National Weather Service said Chicago-area wind chills Monday and Tuesday could sink to 45 below zero.

    INDIANA

    Two deaths were blamed on the weather. Indianapolis' mayor urged residents to stock up on supplies in advance of more heavy snows and sub-zero readings. Fort Wayne set a record low Friday morning at minus-10 degrees.

    KENTUCKY

    Slicks roads caused dozens of wrecks, and weather-related accidents were blamed for two deaths.

    MAINE

    Maine was spared the brunt of the snow, but residents suffered from sub-zero temperatures with wind chills making it feel like 35 degrees below zero in some places. Temperatures will gradually warm up into the 20s by Saturday afternoon.

    MARYLAND

    Up to 7 inches of snow fell north of Baltimore on Friday. State officials restricted traffic on several bridges, including the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, after reports of sustained winds exceeding 50 mph Friday morning.

    MASSACHUSETTS

    Snow totals of nearly 2 feet of snow in some areas and wind chills well below zero were reported Friday. The National Weather Service said the temperature in Boston was 2 degrees Friday morning but felt like 20-below. Boston had more than 13 inches of snow, with higher amounts north of the city, including 23.8 inches in Boxford. Coastal flooding damaged homes in Scituate.

    MICHIGAN

    Three days of snow and bitter cold left the Detroit area under almost a foot of snow. More snow is expected late Saturday and Sunday. And colder weather is forecast for Monday. Officials blamed one death on the weather.

    MINNESOTA

    Minnesota's governor called off all public school classes Monday because of another cold blast in the forecast. Police said the cold contributed to the death of a 79-year-old man who fell outside his home in New Ulm, where temperatures dropped down to minus-18 degrees.

    NEW HAMPSHIRE

    A deep freeze stayed in place with temperatures in the single digits to below zero and wind chill readings ranging from minus-15 to minus-35. Snow accumulations ranged from about 7 through 11 inches and numerous schools remained closed for a second straight day.

    NEW JERSEY

    New Jersey schools, government offices and businesses closed Friday after more than 10 inches of snow accumulated in some places. A New Jersey Transit bus slid backward down an icy hill in Paterson and crashed into a carpet store. The driver, the only person on the bus, had minor injuries. More than one-fourth of Friday's outgoing flights at Newark Liberty Airport were canceled.

    NEW YORK

    New York City, where 6 to 11 inches of snow was recorded, urged the homeless to find shelter as single-digit temperatures followed the storm. Flights out of John F. Kennedy Airport were suspended for a time Friday because of winds and visibility. A woman with Alzheimer's disease froze to death after wandering away from her rural western New York home and two other deaths were also blamed on the weather.

    NORTH CAROLINA

    Three Appalachian Trail hikers were hospitalized Friday after being stranded overnight in the snow without shelter. Wind chills were near 20 degrees below zero and snow drifts were up to 2 feet high.

    OHIO

    Some of the coldest temperatures in the state in years were recorded Friday, but it's expected to be even colder in the next few days. Authorities say at least two people were killed in weather-related crashes in northeast Ohio on Thursday as the storm dumped up to 10 inches of snow around Cleveland and Toledo.

    PENNSYLVANIA

    Pittsburgh's mayor-elect moved his Monday inauguration ceremony indoors because of temperatures forecast between the teens and minus-10. Authorities said a worker at a suburban Philadelphia road salt storage facility died Thursday when a 100-foot-tall pile of salt fell and crushed him on a backhoe.

    RHODE ISLAND

    Most schools were closed due to snow and single-digit temperatures and winds that made it feel like minus-20 overnight in Warwick. Communities across the state opened warming centers at libraries, senior centers and other buildings.

    VERMONT

    Low temperatures - minus-8 in Burlington - and a foot or more of snow made for ideal ski and snowmobile conditions. A wind chill of 29 below was recording in Burlington.

    WEST VIRGINIA

    Highs only in the teens prompted many schools to close or open late as some areas in the eastern part of the state received up to 6 inches of snow.

    WISCONSIN

    A man found on a sidewalk outside his Milwaukee home Friday died of hypothermia resulting from bitterly cold temperatures. The man's core body temperature was 45 degrees, according to the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office. Milwaukee officials planned to close non-essential services Monday because of expected dangerously cold temperatures.

    PHOTOS: First Winter Storm of 2014 Socks Northeast

     

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    Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014

    Plummeting temperatures are on their way in much of the US. (Photo illustration by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

    A fresh blast of arctic air will deliver some of the coldest weather in 20 years to the country's midsection during the second half of the weekend and into the start of next week.

    This brutal cold will bring danger to millions from the northern Plains to the Midwest and down into the Tennessee Valley. Overnight lows are forecast to dip well below the zero-degree mark in these areas, even dropping to 30 below zero in parts of Minnesota and North Dakota.

    With temperatures more than 30 degrees below normal, residents of these regions will have to take extra precautions to stay protected from the harsh winter cold.

    One of most dangerous aspects of this Arctic outbreak will be the gusty winds accompanying the subzero temperatures.

    These winds will make it feel significantly colder and can pose danger for those spending prolonged periods of time in the outdoors.

    This bone-chilling breeze helps to carry heat away from your body, heightening the risk of frostbite and hypothermia.

    Although it is most commonly associated with extreme heat, dehydration is also a danger that people must be aware of when spending time in the cold.

    AccuWeather.com RealFeel(R) temperatures take into account different variables, such as wind speed, humidity and amount of sunlight, to determine how cold it feels.

    The worst of the brutal cold will focus on the northern Plains and areas just west of the Great Lakes where temperatures are forecast to stay below zero degrees for more than 24 hours.

    "If the temperature in Chicago only gets to 6 below zero on Monday like currently forecast, it will be 5 degrees lower than it reached each of the last two winters."

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    Hundreds of thousands of football fans heading out to the first round of playoff games this weekend will need to prepare for the bitter cold.

    This is especially true for those headed to Green Bay on Sunday night where temperatures are forecast to remain below zero for the entirety of the game.

    Looking ahead to Wednesday, the core of the arctic air will shift off to the north and east. This will allow for temperatures to slowly rise to near normal by the end of the week.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos from 2013
    Twin Waterspouts

     

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    Saturday, Jan. 4, 2013

    In this Jan. 3, 2014, file photo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio shovels the sidewalk in front of his house in New York. With less than 36 hours into his tenure, the first test of the new mayor's leadership skills arrived in the form of a major winter storm. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

    NEW YORK (AP) - With the snow still swirling from a fierce winter storm that threatened to snarl the city, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio stepped out of his Brooklyn home and started to shovel.

    "Don't lift with your back, lift with your knees," he advised as he dug into the sidewalk outside his Park Slope row house. Later, his teenage son emerged to help, prompting de Blasio to jokingly give him "an A for effort but a D for punctuality."

    Faced with the first test of his leadership barely two days after taking the oath, de Blasio responded with a display of regular-guy charm - and a remarkably effective piece of political stagecraft - that would have been unimaginable for his predecessor, billionaire Michael Bloomberg.

    "I've lived in New York for 70 years, and I can't recall a mayor shoveling before," said Kenneth Sherrill, a retired political science professor at Hunter College. "Several of them would have ended up in the emergency room if they tried."

    After 12 years of the businesslike, buttoned-down style of Bloomberg, the storm offered a glimpse of a new style of leader in de Blasio, apart from their clear political differences.

    De Blasio spoke of heading a conference call on the storm at 4 a.m. He faced the media in baggy blue jeans. And when asked by a reporter how many layers he was wearing in the 10-degree weather, he unzipped his jacket in a mock strip tease. "You want me to go farther?"

    During the mayoral campaign, de Blasio's opponents frequently leveled the charge that he had little experience managing a large organization. He had a small staff as a city councilman, and as public advocate, he oversaw a $2 million annual budget. By comparison, New York City's annual budget is more than $70 billion.

    In a sense, the storm provided an early opportunity for de Blasio to demonstrate his management mettle.

    De Blasio put 1,700 plows on the streets soon after the snow started falling Thursday night. He acted early Friday to close schools, out of concern over bitterly low temperatures. And by late Friday morning, he announced that every one of the city's primary roads and nearly all of the secondary roads had been plowed.

    Asked to grade his first test, he said: "Based on the information I have right now, I give everyone an A for extraordinary effort and extraordinary effectiveness."

    Even before he was sworn in on Wednesday, de Blasio said he was keenly aware of the political dangers presented by snowstorms.

    In 1969, John Lindsay's administration left Queens unplowed for days, trapping residents on their blocks. When Lindsay finally visited, his limousine got stuck in the snow and the mayor was berated by angry residents.

    And just after Christmas 2010, a blizzard dumped more than 20 inches of snow on the five boroughs, but Bloomberg was nowhere to be found for hours. And then, after racing back from Bermuda on his private plane, he appeared out of touch to many by suggesting New Yorkers "go see a Broadway show," a suggestion that infuriated those still trapped in their homes and those with scant discretionary income.

    De Blasio, drawing contrasts with the billionaire mayor, often dovetailed his criticism of the storm response with his own experiences as a homeowner, frustrations he shared again the day before his Wednesday inauguration as it was clear the new storm would slam the city.

    "I remember that my own block didn't get cleared for three days," he said. "Something like a snowstorm, I take very personally. I can see it, I can feel it, I can touch it. It's not an abstraction."

    But he denied that his previous criticisms upped the pressure on his own performance.

    "I don't feel we have to get this right because of my past criticism," he said this week. "I feel we have to get this right because I'm mayor of the City of New York."

    Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty, who has worked for the department for nearly 50 years, said de Blasio is not that different from other mayors when it comes to snow. "He wants the job done, and he wants the streets clear," he said.

    De Blasio fielded questions about the storm for nearly an hour Thursday after he officiated at the swearing-in of his new police commissioner. And just a few hours later, he provided another press briefing, this time at the city's state-of-the-art Office of Emergency Management headquarters, flanked by a dozen city commissioners.

    Very little had changed from his previous news conference, but it provided the politically precious visual of a leader, surrounded by the latest in technology, in command of a crisis.

    "There's always some on-the-job training, but I think so far he's passed the test," Sherrill said. "He may have started to allay any fears that he can't be in charge."

    PHOTOS: First Winter Storm of 2014 Socks Northeast

     

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    Updated Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014, 3:28 p.m. ET

    This photo shows a light dusting of snow and ice from an overnight storm in Washington, D.C. early Friday morning Jan. 3, 2014. The coming cold plunge could be 'record breaking' says forecasters. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)

    CHICAGO (AP) - Temperatures not seen in years are likely to set records in the coming days across the Midwest, Northeast and South, creating dangerous travel conditions and prompting church and school closures.

    A "polar vortex" will affect more than half of the continental U.S. starting Sunday and into Monday and Tuesday, with wind chill warnings stretching from Montana to Alabama. The vortex is a counterclockwise-rotating pool of cold, dense air, and is behind the startling forecast: 25 below zero in Fargo, N.D., minus 31 in International Falls, Minn., and 15 below in Indianapolis and Chicago.

    The bitterly cold temperatures already pushed into northern states Sunday morning. The National Weather Service reported a temperature of 9 below zero in Bismarck, N.D., and negative 21 at Duluth, Minn. At the height of the cold, wind chills may reach 50, 60 or even 70 below zero.

    "It's just a dangerous cold," National Weather Service meteorologist Butch Dye in Missouri said Sunday morning.

    Snow preceded the polar air and was expected to fall throughout much of Sunday from Michigan to Kentucky. Forecasts called for up to a foot in eastern Missouri and parts of central Illinois, several inches in western Tennessee and 1 to 3 inches in Kentucky.

    Already, the weather created travel problems Sunday morning. In New York City, a plane from Toronto landed at Kennedy International Airport and then slid into snow on a taxiway. No injuries were reported, but the airport temporarily suspended operations for domestic and international flights because of icy runways. Flights resumed around 10 a.m. EST.

    Mike Duell, with flight-tracking website FlightAware.com, said Saturday to expect delays and flight cancellations because of the cold temperatures.

    "For some of them, they run into limitations on the aircraft. They're only certified to take off at temperatures so low so if they get into a particular cold front it can prevent them from being able to legally take off," he said. "In a lot of cases, it's just ice."

    The roads aren't much better in Missouri, where the state Department of Transportation warned that most major roadways were snow-covered, it was too cold for rock salt to be very effective and the wind was whipping.

    "We're experiencing thunder snow and whiteout conditions," said MoDOT spokeswoman Marie Elliott. "If it gets to the point where it's no longer safe, we will consider suspending operations."

    It hasn't been this cold for almost two decades in many parts of the country. Because of that, medical experts are reminding people that frostbite and hypothermia can set in quickly at 15 to 30 below zero, and it's key to be dressed for the temperatures.

    "They have to wear a hat, they have to have face protection," said Dr. Brian Mahoney, medical director of emergency services at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. He said mittens are better than gloves, layers of dry clothing are best, and anyone who gets wet needs to get inside.

    "A person not properly dressed could die easily in those conditions," said National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Truett in St. Louis, describing the expected wind chill in Missouri at daybreak Monday.

    Southern states are bracing for possible record temperatures, too. Meteorologists in central and north Georgia say temperatures could drop into the single digits by Tuesday, accompanied by wind chills as low as 15 degrees below zero.

    Elsewhere, Minnesota has called off school Monday for the entire state - the first such closing in 17 years - as well as the Wisconsin cities of Milwaukee and Madison.

    Sunday's NFL playoff game in Green Bay's Lambeau Field could be among one of the coldest ever played: A frigid minus 2 degrees when the Packers and San Francisco 49ers kick off around 3:30 p.m. Doctors suggest fans wear at least three layers and drink warm fluids - not alcohol.

    PHOTOS: First Winter Storm of 2014 Socks Northeast

     

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    Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014

    Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, in Chicago saw as much as a foot of snow or more was forecast for some areas in the Northeast overnight Thursday into Friday. The temperatures are now expected to plummet, with some areas seeing highs just above zero, according to the National Weather Service. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

    The Midwest is facing yet another snowstorm for the second half of the weekend with dangerously cold air to follow. As the bitterly cold air charges in, a flash freeze and blizzard conditions could develop in some areas.

    Snow will intensity across the lower Great Lakes and mid-Mississippi Valley through Sunday, impacting Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis.

    The storm will also bring snow and slippery travel to much of the Ohio and Tennessee valleys Sunday through Sunday night, while ice concerns arise in the Northeast.

    The heaviest snow is forecast to fall from St. Louis to Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit, Cleveland and London, Ontario, where a half a foot or more of snow could fall.



    Cities that could be hit by a sudden period of blinding snow, plunging temperatures and a quick freeze include Memphis and Nashville, Tenn.; Louisville and Lexington, Ky.; Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio; Charleston and Morgantown, W.Va.; Pittsburgh and Bradford, Pa.; Jamestown and Rochester, N.Y.; and Toronto and Ottawa, Ontario. Travel along I-40, I-64 and I-65 could be difficult Sunday night.

    As lake-effect blends in with the general storm, some bands of intense snowfall are likely.

    According to Senior Meteorologist Dale Mohler, "Blizzard conditions may develop from eastern Ohio to West Virginia, western Maryland, western Pennsylvania Sunday night and Monday, and in western New York Monday into Tuesday."

    Whiteout conditions are possible in these areas with strong winds, plunging temperatures and heavy snowfall rates. The worst conditions are likely in New York state, just south of Buffalo and in the Tug Hill region, south of Watertown.

    "Major interstate highways including I-79, I-80, I-81, I-90 and Route 219 could close down for a time due to the intense conditions Monday into Tuesday," Mohler added.

    Some people could be caught off guard and stranded by the storm.

    A dangerous cold wave will blast in its wake. The new wave of frigid air will reach the I-95 Northeast on Monday.



    Temperatures in Chicago are not expected to exceed 10 below zero on Monday with Detroit experiencing afternoon highs just above zero Monday and Tuesday.

    The last time Chicago was this cold was during early February of 1996, where temperatures remained below zero around the clock for a couple of days.

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    Lows Monday night in Elmira, N.Y., and Pittsburgh will drop well below zero with highs near to just above zero Tuesday.

    AccuWeather.com RealFeel(R) temperatures will average 10 to 20 degrees lower than the actual temperature.

    January typically bring the lowest average temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere. Combined with less sunlight and a growing snowpack, the first month of the year can bring some downright frigid air. However, occasional bouts of frigid air with some of the coldest nighttime lows can occur well into February.

    PHOTOS: First Winter Storm of 2014 Socks Northeast

     

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    Sunday, Jan. 5, 2013

    Andrew Kwon took this image of Jupiter on Nov. 20 from his backyard observatory in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. (Andrew Kwon)

    Jupiter will reign as king of the night sky on Sunday (Jan. 5), visible all night long as it reaches opposition.

    This means that, in Earth's sky, Jupiter will stand exactly opposite the sun. As the sun sets in the west, Jupiter will rise in the east. Jupiter sets in the west just as the sun is rising in the east.

    Because we are only two weeks past the winter solstice, the shortest day in the year, this means that Jupiter will be above the horizon for over 15 hours for skygazers in mid-northern latitudes. [Amazing Night Sky Photos by Stargazers: January 2014]

    You can see a live webcast Jupiter at opposition online Sunday, courtesy of the online skywatching website Slooh. The all-night webcast will begin at 5 p.m. EST (2200 GMT) and feature views of Jupiter from the Prescott Observatory in Arizona.

    With the naked eye, Jupiter will be the brightest object in the sky other than the moon, since Venus sets less than an hour after the sun. At magnitude -2.7 on the upside-down brightness scale astronomers use, Jupiter will outshine all of the bright circle of winter stars which surround it. Jupiter will be three times brighter than Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, at magnitude a -1.4.

    With binoculars and a steady hand, you should be able to spot one or more of Jupiter's four brightest moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. These are easy targets for even the smallest telescope.

    Editor's note: If you snap an amazing photo of Jupiter that you'd like to share for a possible story or image gallery, send pictures, comments and other details to managing editor Tariq Malik at spacephotos@space.com.

    It is fun to follow in Galileo's footsteps and watch these four moons as they dance around Jupiter, shifting positions from night to night. Sometimes they pass in front of Jupiter, casting their shadows on his face; at other times they disappear behind Jupiter or into his mighty shadow.

    More powerful telescopes reveal a wealth of detail in the tops of Jupiter's clouds. Jupiter's rapid rotation forces these clouds into distinct horizontal bands, easily visible in telescopes of at least 3 inches (75mm) aperture. Embedded in one of these cloud belts is a gigantic oval storm. This has been followed for centuries by astronomers, who call it the Great Red Spot.

    Being a storm in Jupiter's upper atmosphere, the Great Red Spot drifts back and forth in longitude, while staying more or less at the same latitude. It varies in its color and darkness, but right now it is a particularly intense orange color according to Canadian astronomer Alan Whitman.

    Because Jupiter is above the horizon for about 15 hours this month, we have a rare opportunity to observe a complete rotation of the planet, which takes slightly less than 10 hours. For example, on Tuesday night, Jan. 7, observers in eastern North America can see the Red Spot at 6 p.m. in the evening local time, and again, one full Jupiter day later, at 4 a.m. in the morning.

    This article was provided to SPACE.com by Simulation Curriculum, the leader in space science curriculum solutions and the makers of Starry Night and SkySafari. Follow Starry Night on Twitter @StarryNightEdu. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on SPACE.com.

    Copyright 2014 SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Mind-Blowing New Photos from Space

     

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    Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014

    Green Bay is seen frozen through a path between grassy vegetation at the Cofrin Memorial Arboretum on the University of Wisconsin Green Bay campus Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014, in Green Bay. Temperatures not seen in years are likely to set records in the coming days across the U.S. Midwest, Northeast and South, creating dangerous travel conditions and prompting church and school closures. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - There's cold. And then there's subzero, frostbite cold.

    Record-breaking frigid temperatures started blanketing the Midwest on Sunday in part because of a "polar vortex," which one meteorologist says will send piles of polar air into the U.S.

    These temperatures can be dangerous, and officials in several states are warning residents to take precautions. Here's a look at some of the problems that arise when temperatures plummet and how to stay safe if you venture outdoors.

    FROSTBITE

    At temperatures of 15 to 30 below, exposed skin can get frostbitten in minutes and hypothermia can quickly set in.

    "People need to protect themselves against the intense cold," said Dr. Brian Mahoney, medical director of emergency services at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. "They have to wear a hat, they have to have face protection."

    Mahoney said mittens are better than gloves, layers of dry clothing are best, and anyone who gets wet needs to get inside.

    "You can't be wearing high-heel shoes with your toes in nylons," he added. "That's a great way to get frostbite."

    Hypothermia, when a person's total body temperature gets too low, could lead to unconsciousness or cardiac arrest. Frostbite, when extremities freeze, could lead to amputations.

    Homeless people who have no relief from the bitter chill are at risk, but Mahoney said he's also treated people who simply used bad judgment, sometimes due to drinking alcohol.

    The bottom line, Mahoney said, is to avoid the cold if you can - or make sure all body parts are covered up and covered up well.

    You could die if you don't respect the environment you live in," he said.

    CAR BATTERIES

    Keeping vehicles in a garage is the most surefire way to ensure they will start in subzero conditions.

    But for those who don't have access to a garage, it's important that they check the health of their vehicle's battery before the cold arrives, said Jason Jones, who works for Best Batteries in North Kansas City, Mo. - where temperatures early Monday were forecast to reach 10 degrees below zero.

    Most batteries less than three years old should be able to handle the cold, he said. Older batteries and ones that are on the verge of going dead often can't even be jump-started once they have been exposed for an extended time to temperatures below zero.

    "Some batteries you can't get back to life," Jones said. "Once they get to a certain point, they're done."

    SPACE HEATERS

    Brandie Nixon awoke the Saturday before Christmas to the screams of her 6-year-old son, Kurtus, and then saw smoke and fire in the bedroom of the family's small home in St. Clair, Mo.

    A portable heater had somehow ignited a toy box, the fire eventually spreading to the bed where Kurtus was sleeping. Fortunately, he awoke in time to scamper to safety.

    "The house didn't have heat," Nixon, a 25-year-old Wal-Mart employee, said, explaining the use of the portable heater. "I would not use heaters again. It's too risky."

    The U.S. Fire Administration says more than 50,000 residential fires annually are caused by heating, resulting in about 150 deaths. January is the peak month.

    "I think it's principally a desperation thing," said William Siedhoff, director of Human Services for the city of St. Louis. "When you're freezing cold, sometimes logic goes out the window and you seek out whatever means you can to stay warm."

    OUTDOOR EXERCISE

    Stephen Regenold is a self-described fitness freak who has, he says, enjoyed winter his whole life. Now 36, Regenold runs 5 miles daily around Minneapolis' Lake Calhoun, and bikes to work every day no matter the weather.

    "I go crazy if I don't get those endorphins and get those fitness fixes every day," Regenold said.

    Regenold's other love is equipment, which he writes about as the "Gear Junkie." Looking for pro tips for outdoor athletic survival? He's got them.

    Keeping the core warm is easy, he says; focus instead on extremities. He wears mittens, and on the coldest days swears by a versatile hat that can be worn to cover neck, head or both (He often wears two, plus a regular winter hat).

    "To me it's less about being tough, but more about embracing where I love and not letting the weather man and the media scare me from what I love to do," Regenold said.

    SCHOOL BUSES

    Extreme temperatures also can cause plenty of other problems that can strand drivers - even those who drive school buses.

    In St. Louis County, one school district canceled classes Friday after 20 of its buses wouldn't start, and 85 others didn't have working air brakes because of temperatures that hovered around zero at 6 a.m.

    Crews will be working over the weekend to make sure the company's buses are in good mechanical condition, said Stephanie Creech, a spokeswoman for Cincinnati-based First Student Inc., which operates buses in the Rockwood School District. But there's no guarantee that they will be able to operate when the mercury drops below zero.

    "Monday, it would appear there could be safety issues," Creech said. "Delays could be severe enough that students might not be picked up in a timely manner, and if so we will make a recommendation to the school systems that we don't operate the buses."

    PHOTOS: First Winter Storm of 2014 Socks Northeast

     

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    Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014

    The coming storm will provide feet of the white stuff for kids to play with. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

    As a dangerous blast of arctic air engulfs cities from the northern Plains to the East Coast into Monday, snow will develop and rapidly pile up in the snow belts downwind of the Great Lakes.

    A major lake-effect snow event will unfold from Sunday night through Tuesday as bitterly cold northwest winds move over the only partially frozen Great Lakes.

    According to NOAA, ice coverage throughout the Great Lakes is limited to mostly coastal locations and this lack of ice will lead to the development of blinding snow downwind of the lakes.

    AccuWeather.com Meteorologists are expecting that many locations to the east and southeast of the Great Lakes will end up with 1-2 feet of snow accumulation through Tuesday afternoon. It is possible that a few spots, especially in the Tug Hill Plateau in New York, could end up with as much as 3 feet of snow.

    Snow amounts to this magnitude will be confined to isolated areas, mainly in the most persistent bands where snowfall rates of 2-3 inches per hour will occur.

    RELATED:
    Detailed Erie, PA, Forecast
    Cold Weather Advisories, Warnings
    Forecast Temperature Maps

    Some of the heaviest snow will fall from Erie, Pa., to Jamestown and Buffalo, N.Y., northward into Oswego and Watertown, N.Y. Parts of Interstate 90 through this region may become impassable for a time during the heaviest snow bands.

    Interstate 81 across northern New York downwind of Lake Ontario could be greatly impacted by white-out conditions and feet of snow.



    A similar story is expected farther west along the coast of Lake Michigan from Traverse City through Grand Rapids.

    In addition to the heavy snow, westerly wind gusts of 40-45 mph combined with temperatures in the single digits to below zero will lead to AccuWeather.com RealFeel(R) temperatures of 40 to 50 below zero.

    If you must travel early this week near the snow belts, use extreme caution and allow for plenty of extra travel time.

    Keep a basic winter survival kit in your vehicle that includes a flashlight, batteries, blanket, snacks, water, gloves, boots and a first-aid kit in case you have to pull over or become stranded.

    As always, check back with AccuWeather.com as we continue to monitor the cold and snow across the region.

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    Twin Waterspouts

     

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    Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014

    A person struggles to cross a street in blowing and falling snow Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014, in St. Louis. Snow that began in parts of Missouri Saturday night picked up intensity after dawn Sunday with several inches of snow on the ground by mid-morning and more on the way. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

    CHICAGO (AP) - Frigid, subzero temperatures were expected to roll in Sunday afternoon, evening and into Monday across a wide swath of the United States. Some residents in Midwestern states were digging out from nearly a foot of snow Sunday afternoon, and grocery stores were selling out of essentials.

    Hazardous travel conditions led to canceled flights and prompted warnings from transportation officials that only those who absolutely need to venture out should do so. Some schools canceled Monday classes, and local governments and charities worked to be sure shelters were available for anyone who needed them.

    DELAWARE

    Drivers in northern Delaware have been dealing with treacherous conditions resulting from freezing rain. The state Department of Transportation warned of black ice and other dangerous conditions, especially on bridges and overpasses.

    ILLINOIS

    Illinois residents were digging out of more snow Sunday afternoon - as much as 10 inches in some parts of the state. Aviation officials say about 1,200 flights were canceled at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on Sunday morning, with about 60 cancelled at Midway International Airport.

    INDIANA

    A winter storm had already dropped 5 inches on parts of Indiana and some areas could see up to a foot as the state prepares for dangerous Arctic air expected to bring subzero wind chills. Gov. Mike Pence ordered nearly 100 Indiana National Guard members to be ready to help rescue stranded motorists, move people to shelters and assist local emergency services workers in reaching people who need medical help. The state General Assembly postponed Monday's opening of its 2014 session.

    IOWA

    Some Iowa schools have canceled classes to keep children out of the subzero temperatures expected in the coming days. The National Weather Service says temperatures will fall as low as 15-25 degrees below zero Sunday night and Monday with wind chills of 35-60 degrees below zero.

    KENTUCKY

    Even though the initial forecast for snow has been scaled back, flights for Monday and Tuesday were canceled at Barkley Regional Airport in Paducah. Organizations including churches and the Salvation Army were planning to open warming centers in some cities.

    MICHIGAN

    Conditions in some parts of Michigan were relatively balmy Sunday morning, with temperatures as high as 32 degrees in the far southeast. But the harshest winter conditions in 20 years are heading for the Lower Peninsula, with up to 15 inches of snow forecast for parts of the state by late Sunday followed by temperatures diving as low as minus 15.

    MINNESOTA

    The cold snap that the National Weather Service is calling "historic and dangerous" has arrived in Minnesota. Temperatures were down to 8 degrees below zero in the Twin Cities area around mid-morning Sunday, and temperatures are expected to dip between 25 below and 40 below overnight, with wind chills plummeting to between 55 below and 65 below.

    MISSOURI

    Heavy snow combined with strong winds and cold created dangerous conditions Sunday over much of Missouri, prompting warnings that only those who absolutely need to venture out should do so. The state Department of Transportation said it was so cold the salt used to melt ice and snow wasn't very effective and that conditions were so bad they were a danger even to employees driving the plows and trucks.

    NEBRASKA

    Officials are warning that frostbite and hypothermia are possible if Nebraskans aren't prepared for the cold moving into the state on Sunday afternoon. And the Nebraska Humane Society urged pet owners to bring their animals inside.

    NEW YORK

    A plane slid into snow as it turned onto a taxiway after landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Sunday, disrupting flights at the airport for two hours. No injuries were immediately reported, according to a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman.

    NORTH DAKOTA

    The North Dakota Department of Transportation has issued a travel alert for the southwestern part of the state as blowing snow is reducing visibility. Drivers were encouraged to reduce speeds and be ready for rapidly changing conditions and extremely cold wind chills.

    TENNESSEE

    Winter weather caused the cancellation of flights and delays of more than three hours at airports in Nashville and Memphis on Sunday. The Metro Nashville government said it was partnering with local organizations to make sure shelters were available.

    VIRGINIA

    The National Weather Service has issued wind chill warnings that take effect Monday evening from the Alleghany Highlands southeast to the Virginia Piedmont, including the Roanoke and New River valleys, and areas west of the Blue Ridge. Those areas could see wind chills of minus 30 degrees.

    WISCONSIN

    The National Weather Service says dangerously cold air is expected to settle over Wisconsin on Sunday afternoon and become life-threatening Sunday night through Tuesday. Sunday's NFL playoff game in Green Bay's Lambeau Field could be among one of the coldest ever played: A frigid minus 2 degrees when the Packers and San Francisco 49ers kick off around 3:30 p.m.

    PHOTOS: First Winter Storm of 2014 Socks Northeast

     

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    Monday, Jan. 6, 2014
    A man carrying a snow shovel walks along Market Street in Champaign, Ill., on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014. Icy, snow-covered roads and high winds made travel treacherous from the Dakotas and Michigan to Missouri as much of the nation braced for the next winter wallop: a dangerous cold that could break records. (AP Photo/The News-Gazette, Holly Hart) MANDATORY CREDIT
    A man carrying a snow shovel walks along Market Street in Champaign, Ill., on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/The News-Gazette, Holly Hart)

    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - It's not the heat, it's the humidity, goes the old saying. For the tens of millions of Americans currently trapped in the deep freeze: It's not the cold, it's the wind.

    Air temperatures plunging into the negative teens, twenties and even thirties Sunday into Monday are bad enough. But add wind speeds of even a few miles per hour, and what's already deeply unpleasant becomes downright dangerous.

    "It's not so much the absolute cold, though that's certainly not pleasant either," said Mark Seeley, a climatologist for the University of Minnesota. "But what the wind does when it starts blowing it around is force the cold air onto whatever it touches. Whether it's human skin or a car engine, the wind pushes away the warmth being generated and replaces it with cold."

    Thus the popular term "wind chill," which a couple of Polar explorers originated in 1945 to differentiate between the actual temperature, and the temperature that it feels like thanks to the wind. For instance: In International Falls, Minn., along the Canadian border, it was forecast to reach an air temperature of 30 below zero early Monday. But wind gusts will make it feel more like negative 60.

    "Fighting a fire on a night like that, a lot of our guys would rather do recon in the burning structure than man the hoses," said Jim Hultman, a veteran firefighter in International Falls, frequently one of the coldest spots in the nation. "I'm not kidding. Because at least you're warm."

    Hultman said cold winds ice up the nozzles, slow the water streams and blow an icy mist onto the firefighters. "It's just miserable," said Hultman, 59, adding in an interview Sunday that he's "nine shifts away from retirement and then I'm headed someplace warm for a few months."

    Severely low wind chills are a serious threat to the human body. "Really, the best advice I can give is don't go outside at all unless you absolutely have to," said Douglas Brunette, an emergency room doctor at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. Skin exposed to such wind chills can develop frostbite within five minutes; hypothermia comes close behind.

    "I have seen frostbite occur through clothing," Brunette said. "It's not enough just to be covered. You need clothes made for the elements. You need to repel the wind."

    Right now, winds are blowing arctic air across large swaths of the United States. Temperatures were being suppressed by what meteorologists called a "polar vortex," a rotating pool of frigid air forecast to affect more than half the continental U.S. into Tuesday. Wind chill warnings were stretching from Montana to Alabama.

    "I've lived in Minnesota or Wisconsin most of my life. You figure out how to be prepared," said Jesse Roehl, a 39-year-old marketing manager who ventured out Sunday to a Minneapolis grocery store for provisions. Swaddled in a parka, heavy boots, stocking cap, scarf, gloves and several layers underneath, Roehl said he was amused by the fashion choices forced by the wind chill factor.

    "Function over fashion," he said. "Even teenagers are wearing stocking caps today."

    In Columbus, Ohio, 43-year-old student and consultant Lorna West was worried for Ohioans and residents of other states not used to such frosty blasts.

    West, a Chicago native, said she couldn't explain the exact science of wind chills, "but I understand the basic, which is it's going to be damn cold."

    Few know the brutality of the winter wind more than lifelong Minnesotan Will Steger, an explorer who has traveled by dogsled to both poles. Steger said even with the coldest temperatures, a few miles per hour of wind make a huge difference.

    "A minus 50 day with no wind is a pleasant day if your body is working, it's not that bad," Steger said. "But a minus 30 day with a 10 mile per hour wind is much, much colder. The wind drives the cold in, it magnifies it. It pushes it into your skin."

    Steger said the only thing he liked about the wind on polar expeditions was the sound it made at night.

    "It's a melody. It lulls me to sleep," he said. "What I didn't like was waking up in the morning and hearing it, because you know you have to go back out and face it again."

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Dangerous Deep Freeze Pummels Much of US

     

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    Updated Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, 3:14 p.m. ET
    Lee Tuttle, 66, takes a break from blowing snow off of his driveway to pose for a portrait on Sunday, January 5, 2014 at his home on Miller Road in Flint, Mich. He said he hadn't really noticed the icicles forming in his beard.     (AP Photo/The Flint Journal, :Michelle Tessier) LOCAL TV OUT; LOCAL INTERNET OUT
    Lee Tuttle, 66, takes a break from blowing snow off of his driveway to pose for a portrait on Sunday, January 5, 2014 at his home on Miller Road in Flint, Mich. (AP Photo/The Flint Journal, Michelle Tessier)

    CHICAGO (AP) - The eastern half of the U.S. and Canada shivered Monday as a dangerously cold whirlpool of dense air known as a "polar vortex" threatened to break decades-old records and freeze exposed skin within minutes.

    The bitter weather comes after a heavy snowstorm hit much of the region last week. Officials closed schools in Chicago and other Midwest cities and warned residents to stay indoors.

    More than 1,000 flights were canceled Sunday at airports throughout the Midwest. More than 400 flights were cancelled at Chicago's airports Monday.

    "It's just a dangerous cold," said National Weather Service meteorologist Butch Dye.

    The forecast is extreme: 32 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (-35 Celsius) in North Dakota, and 15 below zero (-26 Celsius) in Minneapolis, Indianapolis and Chicago. Wind chills - what it feels like when high winds are factored into the temperature - could drop into the minus 50s and minus 60s Fahrenheit (-45 to -51 Celsius).

    In New York City, the temperature was expected to drop sharply from about 52 degrees (11.11 Celsius) to about 10 degrees (-12 Celsius) overnight as the arctic air moved in.

    In Newfoundland, about 5,000 customers remained without power because of rolling blackouts in recent days, but Premier Kathy Dunderdale said it wasn't a crisis and government services were still operating.

    It hasn't been this cold for almost two decades in many parts of the region. Frostbite and hypothermia can set in within minutes.

    "I have seen frostbite occur through clothing," said Douglas Brunette, an emergency room doctor in Minneapolis. "It's not enough just to be covered. You need clothes made for the elements. You need to repel the wind."

    The Indianapolis mayor upgraded the city's travel emergency level to "red," making it illegal for anyone to drive except for emergencies or seeking shelter. The last time the city issued such a travel warning was 1978.

    Elnur Toktombetov, a Chicago taxi driver, said that an hour into his shift, his Toyota's windows were still coated with ice on the inside

    Many cities came to a virtual standstill. School was called off Monday for the state of Minnesota. Government offices and courts in several states closed.

    Southern states were bracing for possible record cold temperatures, too. With two freezing nights ahead, Louisiana citrus farmers could lose any fruit they cannot pick in time.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Dangerous Deep Freeze Pummels Much of US

     

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    LONDON (AP) - Waves up to 27 feet high slammed into Britain's southwestern coast on Monday, as lashing winds and heavy rain battered parts of the U.K. and coastal residents braced for another round of flooding.

    The monster waves were recorded at Land's End, the southwestern tip of the U.K.

    In Aberystwyth in Wales, seafront homes, businesses and student residence halls were evacuated as high tides hit the Welsh coast.

    The Met Office, Britain's weather forecasting body, warned of wind gusts up to 70 mph (113 kph) and exceptionally large waves along the coasts of Wales, southwest England and Northern Ireland.

    It said the storm is loosely connected to the weather system that caused the U.S winter storm, which dumped large amounts of snow in the Northeast and delayed thousands of flights.

    "A very strong jet stream helped to steer a lot of low pressure across the U.K.," said forecaster Charles Powell.

    At least seven people have died in a wave of stormy weather that has battered Britain since December, including a man killed when his mobility scooter fell into a river in Oxford, southern England.

    The Environment Agency issued three severe flood warnings Monday - meaning there is a threat to life and property - for the county of Dorset in southwestern England, as well as more than 300 less serious flood alerts.

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    Volcano Eruption

     

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    Monday, Jan. 6, 2014
    Deep Freeze Missouri
    People struggle to cross a street in blowing and falling snow Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The subzero cold pushing down into much of the U.S. is unlike cold weather felt in decades.

    The record-breaking cold is caused in part because of a "polar vortex," which one meteorologist says will send piles of polar air into the U.S. These temperatures can be dangerous, and officials in several states are warning residents to stay indoors and take precautions. Here's a look at some of the problems that arise when temperatures plummet and how to stay safe if you venture outdoors.

    FROSTBITE

    At temperatures of 15 to 30 below, exposed skin can get frostbitten in minutes and hypothermia can quickly set in.

    "People need to protect themselves against the intense cold," said Dr. Brian Mahoney, medical director of emergency services at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. "They have to wear a hat, they have to have face protection."

    Mahoney said mittens are better than gloves, layers of dry clothing are best, and anyone who gets wet needs to get inside.

    "You can't be wearing high-heel shoes with your toes in nylons," he added. "That's a great way to get frostbite."

    Hypothermia, when a person's total body temperature gets too low, could lead to unconsciousness or cardiac arrest. Frostbite, when extremities freeze, could lead to amputations.

    Homeless people who have no relief from the bitter chill are at risk, but Mahoney said he's also treated people who simply used bad judgment, sometimes due to drinking alcohol.

    The bottom line, Mahoney said, is to avoid the cold if you can - or make sure all body parts are covered up and covered up well.

    "You could die if you don't respect the environment you live in," he said.

    CAR BATTERIES

    Keeping vehicles in a garage is the most surefire way to ensure they will start in subzero conditions.

    But for those who don't have access to a garage, it's important that they check the health of their vehicle's battery before the cold arrives, said Jason Jones, who works for Best Batteries in North Kansas City, Mo., where temperatures early Monday were forecast to reach 10 degrees below zero.

    Most batteries less than three years old should be able to handle the cold, he said. Older batteries and ones that are on the verge of going dead often cannot even be jump-started once they have been exposed for an extended time to temperatures below zero.

    "Some batteries you can't get back to life," Jones said. "Once they get to a certain point, they're done."

    CATTLE AND CITRUS

    When temperatures plummet and the wind howls, ranchers have to protect themselves and their cattle in South Dakota.

    Bob Fortune, of Belvidere, S.D., spent part of the weekend hauling hay and other feed to his cattle to prepare them for a wind chill expected to reach 50 or 60 degrees below zero. The cattle should be fine as long as they have feed and a place to get out of the wind, he said.

    But with two freezing nights ahead in Louisiana, citrus farmers could lose any fruit they cannot pick in time. In Plaquemines Parish, south of New Orleans, Ben Becnel Jr. estimated that Ben & Ben Becnel Inc. had about 5,000 bushels of fruit on the trees, mostly navel oranges and the sweet, thin-skinned mandarin oranges called satsumas.

    Becnel said he and his 10 workers should be able to get 1,000 bushels into boxes over the next two days.

    "If it doesn't get below 25 for too long, some of the varieties will be OK," he said. "Lemons freeze quick. The more sugar in the fruit, the longer it takes to freeze."

    SPACE HEATERS

    Brandie Nixon awoke the Saturday before Christmas to the screams of her 6-year-old son, Kurtus, and then saw smoke and fire in the bedroom of the family's small home in St. Clair, Mo.

    A portable heater had somehow ignited a toy box, the fire eventually spreading to the bed where Kurtus was sleeping. Fortunately, he awoke in time to scamper to safety.

    "The house didn't have heat," Nixon, a 25-year-old Wal-Mart employee, said, explaining the use of the portable heater. "I would not use heaters again. It's too risky."

    The U.S. Fire Administration says more than 50,000 residential fires annually are caused by heating, resulting in about 150 deaths. January is the peak month.

    "I think it's principally a desperation thing," said William Siedhoff, director of Human Services for the city of St. Louis. "When you're freezing cold, sometimes logic goes out the window and you seek out whatever means you can to stay warm."

    OUTDOOR EXERCISE

    Stephen Regenold is a self-described fitness freak who has, he says, enjoyed winter his whole life. Now 36, Regenold runs five miles daily around Minneapolis' Lake Calhoun, and bikes to work every day no matter the weather.

    "I go crazy if I don't get those endorphins and get those fitness fixes every day," Regenold said.

    Regenold's other love is equipment, which he writes about as the "Gear Junkie." Looking for pro tips for outdoor athletic survival? He's got them.

    Keeping the core warm is easy, he says; focus instead on extremities. He wears mittens, and on the coldest days swears by a versatile hat that can be worn to cover neck, head or both (He often wears two, plus a regular winter hat).

    "To me it's less about being tough, but more about embracing where I live and not letting the weather man and the media scare me from what I love to do," Regenold said.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Dangerous Deep Freeze Pummels Much of US

     

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    How to Prepare Your Pets for Extreme Cold
    Veterinarian Barbara Kompare explains how to make sure your four-legged friends are ready for colder temperatures. And guess what? The coats, sweaters and boots you've seen some pets wearing (and perhaps giggled about) really aren't a silly idea, according to experts.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Dangerous Deep Freeze Pummels Much of US


     

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    Water Turns to Snow Mid-Air
    Meteorologist Eric Holthaus decided that he wanted to test the theory that hot water could turn to snow mid-air if the temperature was low enough. Watch as he throws a small pot of boiling water into the -21 degrees F chilled air, the result is spectacular.

    Eric told Storyful: "Today was the coldest weather I've ever personally experienced, and the first time I've tried this trick. Sure enough, it works!"

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Dangerous Deep Freeze Pummels Much of US

     

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    A whirling onslaught of frigid air, known as a polar vortex, moves menacingly over the northern United States in a new photo from a weather satellite in orbit.

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's GOES-East satellite snapped the telling photo today (Jan. 6) at 11:01 a.m. EST (1601 GMT). In the image, the polar vortex is pushing southward over western Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota, blasting half of the continental United States with chilly Arctic air.

    The polar vortex is a sprawling area of low pressure typically found over both the North and South poles, according to NASA. The northern polar vortex typically circulates from west to east in the Arctic during winter, but a high-pressure system parked over Greenland and Canada has pushed the cold air into the United States. This is causing air temperatures to drop across the northern U.S., and the Arctic air is being felt as far south as Atlanta.

    Yesterday, the swirling polar vortex caused a staggering temperature difference of 140 degrees Fahrenheit (77 degrees Celsius) across the country, from North Dakota to Florida. The polar vortex is expected to move northward back over Canada near the end of the week, NASA officials said in a statement.

    The GOES-East satellite also captured a frontal system along the U.S. East Coast. Additionally, a blanket of snow can be seen covering Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa and Missouri, with patches spreading into the Great Plains.

    The clouds visible over Texas are part of a low-pressure system currently sitting over western Oklahoma, which is tied to the cold front triggered by the movement of the polar vortex, according to NASA officials.

    The northern and southern polar vortexes develop and strengthen in their respective hemispheres' winters, as the sun sets over the poles and temperatures cool. The Arctic polar vortex has already moved southward several times this winter, NASA officials said.

    The satellite photo was created as part of NASA's GOES Project, which is located at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

    Follow Denise Chow on Twitter @denisechow. Follow LiveScience @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience.

    Copyright 2014 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Dangerous Deep Freeze Pummels Much of US

     

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    Monday, January 6, 2014
    Deep Freeze JetBlue
    A traveler holds his forehead while waiting to rebook a cancelled JetBlue flight, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)​

    BOSTON (AP) - JetBlue is scaling back operations at three New York-area airports and at Boston's Logan International Airport in an effort to catch up with dozens of weather-related delays and cancellations.

    The airline announced Monday that operations will be reduced at Boston, Newark, JFK and LaGuardia starting at 1 p.m. and stopped entirely at 5 p.m.

    It will allow the company to rest crew and give it time to service aircraft.

    Operations will begin to ramp up again at 10 a.m. Tuesday and the airline expects to be fully operational by 3 p.m. Tuesday.

    The decision was made in light of weather forecasts that call for temperatures around zero and possible flash freezing.

    Some passengers have been stuck at Logan for two days, sleeping on cots and in concourse chairs.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Dangerous Deep Freeze Pummels Much of US

     

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  • 01/06/14--19:10: What Is a Polar Vortex?
  • Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014

    NOAA's GOES-East satellite captured this photo of the polar vortex over the Northern United States on Jan. 6, 2014, at 11:01 a.m. EST (1601 GMT). (NOAA/NASA GOES Project)

    As the coldest air in 20 years surges into major population centers in United States, many are raising eyebrows over its rare cause: the positioning of the polar vortex.

    A polar vortex is a large pocket of very cold air, typically the coldest air in the northern hemisphere, which sits over the polar region during the winter season.

    The frigid air found its way into the United States when the polar vortex was pushed south, reaching southern Canada and the northern Plains, Midwest and northeastern portions of the United States.

    "This is why we've had such extreme cold," expert meteorologist Brett Anderson said.

    What Caused the Polar Vortex to Move?

    "The polar vortex moves around at times during the course of the winter, but rarely do you see it get pushed this far south," Anderson said.

    A large, powerful high pressure system originating in the Eastern Pacific is stretching to the North Pole, shoving the vortex farther south than is typical, allowing it to settle in Canada and the U.S.

    "These high pressure systems can reach Alaska, but it is not typical to stretch all the way to the North Pole," Anderson said.

    The vortex is threatening temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit in the Plains and in the negative 20s and negative teens farther into the Midwest.

    "The high pressure system, paired with the extensive snow cover over southern Canada and the northern United Stated, is allowing the air to stay very cold, according to Anderson.

    According to the National Weather Service, the Upper Midwest, where some of the lowest temperatures are occurring, is currently more than 98 percent snow-covered.

    The Upper Great Lakes region is 100 percent snow-covered, and the Midwest is more than 76 percent covered.

    So, When Will the Cold Air Stop?

    When the strong air from the Eastern Pacific weakens and falls apart, the polar vortex will retreat and go back into place near the North Pole.

    Until then, temperatures across the northern Plains and Midwest will continue to be life-threateningly cold, shattering some all-time low records highs.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Dangerous Deep Freeze Pummels Much of US
    Chicago Deep Freeze

     

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