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Subzero air may break records in many states

– Icy, snow-covered roads and high winds made travel treacherous Sunday 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.

A whirlpool of frigid, dense air known as a “polar vortex” was expected to suppress temperatures in more than half of the continental U.S. starting into Monday and Tuesday, with wind chill warnings stretching from Montana to Alabama.

The forecast is extreme: 25 degrees below zero in Fargo, N.D., minus 31 in International Falls, Minn., and minus 15 in Indianapolis and Chicago.

Wind chills – what it feels like outside when high winds are factored into the temperature – could drop into the minus 50s and 60s. Northeastern Montana was warned of wind chills up to 59 below zero.

“It’s just a dangerous cold,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Butch Dye in Missouri.

Several Midwestern states received up to a foot of new snow Sunday.

Five to 9 inches fell in the Chicago area by Sunday afternoon, St. Louis had about a foot of snow and northern Indiana had at least 8 inches. Southern Michigan could see up to 15 inches.

Officials closed several Illinois roads because of drifting snow and warned residents to stay inside.

In Chicago, temperatures were expected to bottom out around minus 15 overnight, likely setting a daily record, National Weather Service meteorologist Ed Fenelon said.

Earlier Sunday, temperatures sank to minus 20 and colder in northern Minnesota and Grand Forks, N.D.

It hasn’t been this cold for almost two decades in many parts of the country. Frostbite and hypothermia can set in quickly at 15 to 30 below zero.

Travel problems started early Sunday.

In New York City, a plane from Toronto landed at Kennedy International Airport and then slid into snow on a taxiway. No one was hurt, although the airport temporarily suspended operations because of icy runways.

About 1,200 flights had been cancelled Sunday at O’Hare and Midway international airports in Chicago, aviation officials said, and there also were cancellations at Logan International Airport in Boston and Tennessee’s Memphis and Nashville international airports.

School was called off Monday for the entire state of Minnesota, as well as cities and districts in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Iowa, among others.

The University of Toledo and the Toledo Zoo are among the places announcing closures as northwest Ohio braced Sunday for a winter stom.

The University of Toledo canceled today’s classes but said the institution, including its medical center and outpatient clinics, would otherwise remain open.

Southern states are bracing for possible record temperatures, too, with single-digit highs expected Tuesday in Georgia and Alabama.

Temperatures are expected to dip into the 30s in parts of Florida on Tuesday. But Florida Citrus Mutual spokesman Andrew Meadows said it must be at 28 degrees or lower four hours straight for fruit to freeze badly.

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