In the US city of Chicago the temperature fell to minus 17 degrees centigrade as a polar air mass swept across the States and Canada. It is one of many cities across North America in the freezing grip of record lows.
At least nine deaths have been reported. Around 240 million people have been affected. Beating the cold has not been easy with some power plants forced to close.
Airlines were hit hard, almost 2,400 flights were cancelled and nearly 3,000 delayed. Travel by road and rail was disrupted. In Kentucky one media outlet reported it was so cold an escaped prisoner turned himself in to get out of the freezing temperatures.
The cost of the cold snap to the US economy could top the $5 billion mark. No area of the nation has been spared.
The lowest temperature so far recorded was on Tuesday in the town of Embarrass in Minnesota at a numbing minus 37 Celsius. It was as low as the Antarctic coast in winter and colder than the inside of a domestic deep-freeze in some parts.
In one small town in Michigan the snow was so deep a snow plough got stuck. What makes it noteworthy is that the place is named Hell. The 600 residents had to endure temperatures of minus 20 degrees. Forecasters predict an improvement but at the moment it’s so bad that Hell has literally frozen over.
How did it get its name? According to Wikipedia the theories include
one of the town’s founders on being asked what it should be called replied, “I don’t care, you can name it Hell for all I care.”
Another theory is the name came from the “hell-like” conditions encountered by early explorers including mosquitoes, thick forest cover and extensive wetlands.