A weekend of ferocious winter weather could see low-temperature records set in the US heartland


O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — A long weekend of ferocious winter weather loomed across the U.S. on Saturday, as a continuing wave of Arctic storms threatened to break low-temperature records in the nation's heartland, spread cold and snow from coast to coast and cast a chill over everything ranging from football playoffs to presidential campaigns.

As the three-day Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday weekend began, the weather forecast for the U.S. was a crazy quilt of color-coded advisories, from an ice storm warning in Oregon to a blizzard warning in the northern Plains, high wind warnings in New Mexico and flood warnings in the mid-Atlantic.

Fallout from the storm included a 100-vehicle stall on Interstate 80 in Iowa, after semitrailers jackknifed on the slippery roadway and blocked traffic. Some cars were stuck in the same spot for five hours as blowing snow encircled the vehicles. Tow trucks had to be brought in to get them off the roadway.

“Many roads are drifted shut,” Sgt. Alex Dinkla of the Iowa State Patrol said. “They (road crews) are working the snow-blowers like crazy to get some roadways open, but they’re actually struggling. The minute they get them open, they’re actually blowing right back shut because of such high winds we’re seeing right now.”

Dinkla said troopers had handled 86 crashes and 535 motorist assists since Friday.

The medical examiner’s office in Portland, Oregon, was investigating a hypothermia death Saturday, as freezing rain and heavy snow fell in a city more accustomed to mild winter rains. Hundreds of people took shelter overnight at warming centers. Meanwhile, high winds knocked large trees onto cars and houses in western Oregon, and tens of thousands of people were without power.

Parts of Montana fell below minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 34 degrees Celsius) Saturday morning, and the National Weather Service said similar temperatures were expected as far as northern Kansas, with minus 50 F (minus 46 C) possible in the Dakotas.

“Certainly, it's been very active across a large portion of the country. We've had, now, multiple back-to-back storms” parading across the country, weather service meteorologist Zach Taylor said. That typically happens at least a couple of times in the U.S. winter.

Governors from New York to Louisiana warned residents to be prepared. Some states already had reported weather-related deaths earlier this week from avalanches in California and Idaho and cold exposure in Illinois' Chicago suburbs. In Wisconsin, a man died snow-blowing his driveway.

Power was out Saturday morning in hundreds of thousands of households and businesses, mainly in Michigan and Wisconsin, according to poweroutage.us. In Illinois, officials pleaded with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to stop sending migrants to Chicago, where city-run shelters were full and some new arrivals were staying in parked “warming buses.” Abbott refused, while urging Texans to get ready for a chill with ice on the way Monday.

In St. Louis, the National Weather Service warned of rare and “life-threatening” cold.

Grant Rampton, 25, went sledding with friends Saturday at a Des Moines, Iowa, golf course despite a wind chill of minus 20 F (minus 29 C). He fought off the cold with layers of clothing, insulated socks and constant movement.

“It’s a great state to be in,” Rampton, a lifelong Iowan, said of his home state. “There’s not as much to do, in winter especially, but you can make your own fun, like out here, sledding with your friends."

Des Moines residents Katy Becker, 26, and her fiance, Dalton Gustafson, 30, were hoping to fly to Florida for a trip to celebrate their engagement and Becker’s birthday on Jan. 16. They got snowed in, but will try again Sunday.

“Negative 20 to 80 degrees — 100 degree flip in temperature,” Gustafson said.

The air temperature in parts of the state could dip as low as minus 14 F (minus 26 C) on Monday, when Iowa's caucuses kick off the U.S. presidential primary season. And that was to say nothing of the wind: Forecasters said it would be Wednesday before below-zero windchills go away.

Republican contenders Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley and former President Donald Trump all canceled weekend campaign events because of the winter storm.

In South Dakota, the air temperature Saturday morning was minus 17 F (minus 27 C) at the Crow Creek Sioux Reservation, but a whipping wind of 30 mph (48 kph) made it feel like minus 48 F (minus 44 C). With a homeless shelter already at capacity, tribal leaders opened a gym for others needing shelter.

The Buffalo Bills’ NFL playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers was moved from Sunday to Monday because of dangerous weather conditions.

Kansas City, Missouri, was set to host a frigid playoff game Saturday night, when the Chiefs host the Miami Dolphins. The temperature at kickoff was expected to be minus 2 F (minus 18 C), with the wind making it feel like minus 24 F (minus 31 C).

Still, hundreds of fans lined up hours early outside the Arrowhead Stadium parking lots. Some came outfitted with ski goggles, heated socks and other winter gear they had bought for the game.

Chiefs season ticket holder Keaton Schlatter and his friends had considered trying to sell their seats, as many other fans did.

“But we decided that it’s all part of the experience, and we didn’t want to miss it,” said Schlatter, of West Des Moines, Iowa.

Coastal areas in southern Maine and New Hampshire were pounded by between 1 and 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) of rain on Saturday morning, causing some roads to flood, said Justin Arnott, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Maine. He said Portland, Maine, was also bracing for flooding.