SYRACUSE, N.Y. – After an unusually warm December and a mostly snow-free January, winter returned with a vengeance Tuesday to the Upper Midwest and Northeast, dumping heavy snow on parts of New York and keeping temperatures well below zero in many cities.
The bitter cold and bone-chilling winds forced dozens of schools in New York, Wisconsin and Michigan to close for a second day, including districts in Buffalo, Rochester and Milwaukee. In West Virginia, classes were called off or delayed in all 55 counties, and Kentucky school districts — including Louisville and Lexington — closed early because of snow.
"I knew we'd have to pay up somewhere down the line for all that nice weather," said Chris Sachel, who owns a drive-in restaurant outside Fulton, northwest of Syracuse.
Cold air from the Arctic stretched from the northern Plains through New England, and temperatures were below zero as far south as the mountains of West Virginia. At least nine deaths are blamed on slippery roads and the bone-chilling cold.
The cold wind picked up moisture from the Great Lakes, creating lake-effect squalls that have dumped 3 to 4 feet of snow this week on parts of New York state at the eastern end of Lake Ontario. Annual snowfall in the area averages more than 20 feet.
The lake-effect squalls continued Tuesday, and meteorologists expected the weather pattern through early next week.
"All we can do at this point is wait it out until Mother Nature is done kicking us," said Randy Bateman, mayor of Oswego, which declared a snow emergency, banning all nonessential travel so plows could clear roads.
East of Oswego, state troopers closed a section of Interstate 81 for an hour to remove cars and trucks that went off the road when blowing snow reduced visibility to zero. Oswego County Sheriff Reuel Todd said hundreds of vehicles slid off the pavement.
"I live about four miles down the road. It took me about 50 minutes to an hour to get here," said Gus Maunder of Parish.
Ferry service was suspended on the Hudson River in upstate New York because the water began freezing over.
In West Virginia, which saw some of the coldest weather in a decade, a frozen water pipe forced about 35 residents of a senior citizens complex in Nitro to seek shelter at a church, emergency officials said.
In Chicago, city crews were responding to more than 1,000 reports of frozen pipes, said Department of Water Management spokesman Tom LaPorte. The frigid weather also hampered firefighting efforts, prompting emergency workers to use propane torches to melt frozen hydrants.
Temperatures began to ease Tuesday in places hit by the worst of the cold air. After Monday's low of 38 below zero, the northern Minnesota town of Hallock reported a Tuesday morning reading of 9 below, according to the National Weather Service.
But pockets of intense cold lingered, including 29 below Tuesday at International Falls, Minn., and minus 20 at Ironwood, Mich.
Meteorologists said temperatures would not rise into the 20s in Michigan until Wednesday and would stay below freezing at least through Sunday.
The cold and slippery roads had contributed to two deaths in Kentucky, two in Michigan, two in Ohio, and one each in Wisconsin, Maryland and Illinois, authorities said.