Freezing Weather Halts Some Amtrak Service, Closes Schools in Plains, Northeast

A bone-chilling cold wave with temperatures as low as 42 below zero shut down schools for thousands of youngsters Monday, sent homeless people into shelters and put car batteries on the disabled list from the northern Plains across the Great Lakes. At least six deaths were linked to the cold weather.

The cold was accompanied by snow that was measured in feet in parts of upstate New York.

"Anybody in their right mind wouldn't want to be out in weather like this," Lawrence Wiley, 57, said at Cincinnati's crowded Drop Inn Center homeless shelter, where he has been living. Monday lows were in the single digits.

With temperatures near zero and a wind chill of 25 below, school districts across Ohio canceled classes. "We have a lot of kids that walk to school. We didn't think it was worth the risk," said Sandusky City Schools Superintendent Bill Pahl.

It was so cold that Toledo, Ohio — 5 above zero at noon, up from 4 below — even closed its outdoor ice rink. "The irony is not lost on us," said city spokesman Brian Schwartz.

With a temperature of 12 below zero and wind chill of 31 below, Wisconsin's largest school district, Milwaukee Public Schools, also 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 are accustomed to coping.

Temperatures dropped below zero in Minnesota on Saturday morning and were expected to remain there until sometime Tuesday, the weather service said. Subzero temperatures blanketed the Minneapolis-St. Paul area for 63 straight hours — the longest stretch since 2004 — ending Monday afternoon.

In northern Minnesota, the temperature crashed to 42 below Monday morning at Embarrass, 38 below at Hallock and 30 below at International Falls, the weather service said.

Veterinarian Wade Himes wasn't too concerned as he ate breakfast at the Shorelunch Cafe in International Falls.

"We get up and go to work, and people come and see us. I don't think anything changes that much. (You) just dress warm," said Himes, 69.

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. Meteorologist Bill Barrett described the record as "relatively mild."

"It's only 31 below," said Randy Hjelmstad, owner of Randy's Refuse in Grand Forks. "It's not that bad out."

Hayward, Wis., fell to 27 below, and wind chills around the state dipped to nearly 40 below. The weather service said that Tuesday morning temperatures across Wisconsin would range from 15 below to 25 below.

Amtrak shut down passenger service in parts of western and northern New York state, where the cold was accompanied by as much as 2 1/2 feet of snow fed by moisture from the Great Lakes near Buffalo and Watertown. Whiteout conditions and slippery pavement shut down a 38-mile stretch of the New York Thruway during the night.

At least 30 water main breaks were blamed on the cold in Detroit, city officials said.

The cold also brought calls for help from car owners faced with dead batteries and frozen locks.

"During the weekend, 10,000 motorists called for assistance. And that's a record in recent years," Nancy Cain, spokeswoman for AAA Michigan, said Monday.

Citing bitter cold and ice buildup on some Mississippi River locks and dams, the Army Corps of Engineers on Monday announced limits on the widths of barge tows on nearly 100 miles from Clarksville, Mo., south to near St. Louis.

Deaths linked to the cold were reported in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Illinois.