Polar vortex freezes US Midwest with snow, dangerously cold air

1 / 3
As a winter storm system moves through the upper Midwest, a plowing operation involving Dane County, Wis. snow plows clears snow from the westbound lanes of U.S. Highway 12/18 in Madison, Wis., Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. (AP)
2 / 3
Jerry Jackson rides his bike on a cold day on Cochrane Street on January 29, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (AFP)
3 / 3
Vehicles travel along 441 during a snowstorm Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Appleton, Wis. (AP)
Updated 30 January 2019

Polar vortex freezes US Midwest with snow, dangerously cold air

  • A low of minus 10F (minus 23C) was forecast in Chicago and elsewhere in northern Illinois on Wednesday

CHICAGO: A blast of Arctic air from the polar vortex brought dangerous, bone-chilling cold to a wide swath of the United States on Tuesday, stretching from the Dakotas through Maine, with snow expected as far south as Alabama and Georgia.
The Midwest was the hardest-hit region, as temperatures plunged below zero Fahrenheit (minus 18 degrees Celsius). By nightfall the mercury was hovering at 0F in Chicago, 7F (minus 14C) in Detroit and minus 21f (minus 29C) in Minneapolis.
Local television pictures showed the Chicago River and Lake Michigan filled with chunks of ice.
The brutal blast known as the polar vortex is a stream of cold air that spins around the stratosphere over the North Pole, but whose current has been disrupted and is now pushing south into the United States.
Officials warned Chicago residents, accustomed to chilling winters, to expect an unusually deep and dangerous freeze. Even the city’s supply of its signature deep-dish pizza was affected: The Lou Malnati’s chain announced it would stop taking delivery orders at 8 p.m. on Tuesday.
“This could possibly be history-making,” said Ricky Castro, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Romeoville, Illinois.
As much as two feet (60 cm) of snow was forecast in Wisconsin, and six inches (15 cm) in Illinois. Snow was expected through Wednesday from the Great Lakes region into New England.
Some Chicago residents found warmth inside the Harold Washington Library Center, which planned to stay open on Wednesday.
Gilbert Rothschild, 79, walked through a corridor wearing three sweaters and an undershirt underneath his parka. “The more layers, the more you’re insulated,” he said.
Rothschild, the president of a liquor retailer, said he planned on keeping his stores open on Wednesday, figuring customers who were not working might want to pick up something to keep them feeling warm at home.

FROSTBITE WITHIN 10 MINUTES
Many Midwest cities opened warming shelters. Regional governments closed hundreds of schools and airlines canceled more than 2,000 flights, according to the Flightaware flight tracking website. Many had been destined for Atlanta, where the National Football League’s Super Bowl will take place on Sunday.
Amy Patterson, a vice president at the Atlanta Super Bowl Host Committee, said there would still be time for fans to fly to Atlanta for the game, with the National Weather Service forecasting a high of a balmy 58F (14C) on Sunday.
A low of minus 10F (minus 23C) was forecast in Chicago and elsewhere in northern Illinois on Wednesday. But with the wind chill factored in, temperatures will feel as low as minus 50F (minus 46C) through Thursday, the National Weather Service reported.
Temperatures could reach lows of minus 30F to minus 40F (minus 34C to minus 40C) in parts of the Northern Plains and Great Lakes on Wednesday, the NWS said.
The freezing weather may have killed a man in Rochester, Minnesota, who was found dead outside his home on Sunday, according to a report by WCCO, a local CBS affiliate. Rochester police officials did not respond to a request for comment.
Jim Hayes, a National Weather Service meteorologist, warned that frostbite was possible within 10 minutes in the intense cold.

ZOO CLOSED
For many across the region, life ground to a halt.
In Chicago, home to the nation’s third-largest school system, officials plan to cancel classes for all 360,000 students on Wednesday due to the weather. Detroit also said all public schools would close, and Michigan State University said it would suspend classes, only the seventh time it has done so because of weather since 1855.
The Chicago Zoological Society said it would shut Brookfield Zoo for only the fourth time in its 85-year history on Tuesday and Wednesday.
According to the National Weather Service, the coldest recorded temperature in Chicago was minus 27 degrees (minus 33C) on Jan. 20, 1985.
Officials in Des Moines, Iowa, opened warming shelters, but also suggested residents could stay warm inside shopping malls.
In Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp shut government offices in 35 counties on Tuesday, and schools across parts of the state were also closed.
In Fargo, North Dakota, where the temperature dropped to minus 24F (minus 31C), Dan Hallock, an advertising executive, marveled that people were still working outside as he bought coffee.
“The garbage men of Fargo have my utmost respect,” he said.


Kim Jong Un invites Trump to Pyongyang

Updated 2 min 42 sec ago

Kim Jong Un invites Trump to Pyongyang

  • Invitation extended in an undisclosed personal letter sent to Trump on Aug. 15

SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has invited US President Donald Trump to Pyongyang in his latest letter to the American head of state,  South Korea’s top diplomat said on Monday.

“I heard detailed explanations from US officials that there was such a letter a while ago,” Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa told a  parliamentary session. “But I’m not in a position to confirm what’s in the letter or when it was delivered.”

The foreign minister’s remarks followed reports by a local newspaper, JoongAng Ilbo, which said that Kim’s invitation was extended in an undisclosed personal letter sent to Trump on Aug. 15.

If true, the invitation was made as diplomats of the two governments were in a tug-of-war over the resumption of working-level talks for the North’s denuclearization efforts.

During a surprise meeting at the Korean border village of Panmunjom on June 30, Trump and Kim pledged that working-level nuclear disarmament talks would resume within a month, but no such talks have been held,  with both sides indulging in a blame game instead.

“We are very curious about the background of the American top  diplomat’s thoughtless remarks and we will watch what calculations he has,” North Korea’s first vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui said on Aug. 30 in a statement carried by the North’s official Central News Agency (KCNA). He was referring to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s comments terming Pyongyang’s rocket launches as “rogue.”

However, the tone has changed significantly with the communist state recently offering to return to dialogue with Washington “at a time and place agreed late in September.”

“I want to believe that the US side would come out with an alternative based on a calculation method that serves both sides’ interests and is acceptable to us,” Choe said on Aug. 30.

On Monday, the director-general of the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s department of American affairs said working-level denuclearization talks will likely take place “in a few weeks” but demanded security guarantees and sanctions’ relief as prerequisites.

“The discussion of denuclearization may be possible when threats and hurdles endangering our system security and obstructing our  development are clearly removed beyond all doubt,” the statement said. 

HIGHLIGHT

It’s not clear whether the US president has responded to the invitation, thought he has touted his personal relationship with the young North Korean dictator.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in was upbeat about the early resumption of nuclear talks.

“North Korea-US working-level dialogue will resume soon,” he said, citing an “unchanged commitment” to trust and peace by the leaders of both Koreas and the US. 

The working-level meeting will serve as a “force to advance the peace process on the Korean Peninsula,” he added.

Moon is scheduled to meet Trump on the sidelines of a UN General Assembly session in New York next week.

“It will be an opportunity to share opinions and gather wisdom with Trump on the direction of further development of South Korea-US  relations,” he said.

The White House offered no immediate comment.

It’s not clear whether Trump responded to Kim’s invitation to Pyongyang, but the US commander-in-chief has touted his personal relationship with the young North Korean dictator, who oversaw the test-firings of short-range ballistic missiles and multiple launch rockets more than half a dozen times since late July.

While none of the projectiles are a direct threat to the US continent they still pose threats to US and its allied forces in South Korea and Japan.

“Kim Jong-un has been, you know, pretty straight with me, I think,” Trump told reporters on August 24 before flying off to meet with world leaders at the G7 in France. “And we’re going to see what’s going on. We’re going to see what’s happening. He likes testing missiles.”

Experts say the apparent firing of US National Security Adviser John Bolton has also boosted chances of fresh negotiations with the North, which had long criticized him for his hawkish approach toward the regime.

“The displacement of a ‘bad guy’ could be construed as a negotiating tactic to seek a breakthrough in the stalemate of nuclear talks. It’s a show of a will to engage the counterpart in a friendlier manner from the perspective of negotiation science,” Park Sang-ki, an adjunct professor at the department of business management at Sejong University in Seoul, told Arab News.