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South, East brace for polar temps, wind chills

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    A man walks through while shoveling the parking lot in front of the Five Below shop in Fairview Heights, Ill.

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    A woman walks back to her car in the long term parking lot at Indianapolis International Airport, Monday.

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    Rich Carillo, right of Halifax Urban Ministries helps homeless people get on a bus to a cold weather shelter as the sun sets in Daytona Beach, Fla., Monday, Jan. 6, 2014. Cold weather shelters are activated when temperatures are expected to dip below 40 degrees. Temperatures in the Flagler and Volusia Counties are under a hard freeze warning. (AP Photo/Daytona Beach News-Journal, David Massey)

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    U.S. Postal Service letter carrier Jamie Jasmon struggles through snow and below zero temperatures while delivering the mail Monday in Springfield, Ill.

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    Will King, 14, tries to push a stuck SUV driven by his father Bob up their driveway on Abbott street in Ann Arbor, the day after Sunday's snow storm, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014. (AP Photo/The Ann Arbor News, Courtney Sacco) LOCAL TV OUT; LOCAL INTERNET OUT

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    Eli Esch, 13, right, and his dad Tom built this snow fort and igloo over the last few weeks. Its decked out with Christmas lights and the two spent the night in it last week. Eli was enjoying his day off school Monday Jan. 6, 2014, due to the cold but was relatively warm in the igloo. (AP Photo/The Star Tribune, Glen Stubbe)

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    In this Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014 photo, Ron, a bison at Brookfield Zoo, is covered in snow and doesn't seemed phased by the frigid temperatures or snow blowing through the Chicago area. The zoo was closed Monday, Jan . 6 due to the snowstorm and sub-zero temperatures and plans to reopen Tuesday. It was only the fourth time in Brookfield Zoo's history dating back to 1934 that it has closed due to severe weather conditions. (AP Photo/Chicago Zoological Society, Jim Schulz)

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    Bliss Communications maintenance worker Joe Villa shows the results of working outdoors in -17 degree weather. Villa was clearing drifted snow from the walkways around the downtown Janesville building early on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014. The midwest is expected to have to suffer through another day of extreme cold before temperatures begin to rise in a more seasonal direction later tin the week. (AP Photo/The Janesville Gazette, )

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    Farmer Randy Cree chops a hole in the ice while a cow waits to drink water from a pond near Big Springs, Kan., Monday, Jan. 6, 2014. Kansas farmers are coping with frigid conditions as they look after cattle herds. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner) (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

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    A person struggles to walk in strong wind gusts as vehicles pass on Bristol Road, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, in Burton, Mich. (AP Photo/Detroit Free Press, Ryan Garza) DETROIT NEWS OUT; NO SALES

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Deep-Freeze-23

A man walks through while shoveling the parking lot in front of the Five Below shop in Fairview Heights, Ill.

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INDIANAPOLIS  — Frigid air that snapped decades-old records will make venturing outside dangerous for a second straight day today, this time spreading to southern and eastern parts of the U.S. and keeping many schools and businesses shuttered. Residents driven from their homes by power outages in the Midwest longed to return to their own beds.

Monday’s subzero temperatures broke records for the date in Chicago, at minus 16, and Fort Wayne, Ind., where the mercury fell to 13 below. Records also fell in Oklahoma and Texas, and wind chills across the region were 40 below and colder. Officials in Indiana, already struggling with high winds and more than a foot of snow, urged residents to stay home.

“The cold is the real killer here,” Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard said Monday as he asked schools and businesses to remain closed for another day. “In 10 minutes you could be dead without the proper clothes.”

The polar air started to invade the East and South today.

Temperatures plunged to 8 degrees in Atlanta and 6 degrees below zero at a remote weather station in the north Georgia mountains — the coldest temperatures in the state for years. Temperatures hit lows in parts of West Virginia not felt for 25 years, while the extreme cold in Virginia beat record lows that had stood since the late 1950s. The National Weather Service said the mercury bottomed out at 3 degrees before sunrise at Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshal International Airport, with a wind chill of minus 16.

Highs in the single digits were expected in Georgia and Alabama, and wind chill warnings stretched as far south as Florida.

In downtown Louisville, Ky., where wind chills dropped to 22 below zero Monday, John Tyler gathered with friends at a McDonald’s. The self-described homeless man spent Sunday night sleeping on the street.

Dressed in a sweatshirt, two coats and a black woolen cap, Tyler said there’s no way to adequately prepare for this kind of cold.

“How we’re dealing with it? You can’t deal with it,” Tyler said. “There’s no way you can deal with it.”

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U.S. Postal Service letter carrier Jamie Jasmon struggles through snow and below zero temperatures while delivering the mail Monday in Springfield, Ill.

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Forecasters said some 187 million people in all could feel the effects of the “polar vortex” — a dangerous blast of polar air — by the time it spreads across the country. Tennessee utility officials braced for near-record power demand, while Ohio prepared for its coldest temperatures in decades.

PJM Interconnection, which operates the power grid supplying energy to more than 61 million people in the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and South, asked users to conserve electricity today because of the cold, especially in the morning and late afternoon.

Meanwhile, recovery was the focus in several Midwestern states. The subzero cold followed inches of snow and high winds that made traveling treacherous and was blamed for numerous deaths in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence issued disaster declarations, paving the way to request federal aid.

At least 15,000 customers in Indiana were without power early today. Utility crews worked to restore service as temperatures plunged into the negative teens, but officials warned that some customers could be in the cold and dark for days.

“My kids are ready to go home, and I’m ready too,” said 41-year-old Timolyn Johnson-Fitzgerald, of Indianapolis, who faced a second night sleeping on cots at a Red Cross shelter with her three children, ages 11, 15, and 18.

More than 500 Amtrak passengers spent the night on three stopped trains headed for Chicago because of blowing and drifting snow in north-central Illinois. Spokesman Marc Magliari said all the passengers, traveling from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Quincy, Ill., would reach their destination either by train or bus later today.

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A woman walks back to her car in the long term parking lot at Indianapolis International Airport, Monday.

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Bob Oravec, a meteorologist at the Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Md., said the blast of frigid air raised concerns that roads wet from melted snow would freeze over.

“In Maryland, we lost a lot of the snowpack and a lot of water is draining off, and the temperatures are dropping fast,” Oravec said.

But there were signs of a return to normal.

JetBlue Airways, which stopped all scheduled flights to and from New York and Boston on Monday, planned to resume some flights early today, and some Southwest Airlines operations in Chicago resumed Monday night.

The Minnesota Zoo announced it would reopen to the public today. State lawmakers in Indiana planned to kick off their 2014 legislative session after a day’s postponement.

And warmer temperatures — at least, near or above freezing — were forecast for the Midwest. Indianapolis should reach 27 degrees on Wednesday, and other cities in the region could climb above freezing later in the week.

Even International Falls, Minn., had something to look forward to. Wind chills dropped as low as -55 Monday, but were expected to rebound to 25 below today. By Friday, the low was expected to be 5 to 10 above zero, Oravec said.

Until then, take advice for dealing with frostbite- and hypothermia-inducing cold from Anthony Bickham in St. Paul, Minn., who jumped around while waiting for the bus Monday.

“You gotta keep it moving,” Bickham said. “Stay warm at ... all costs, you know.”

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