Jan. 7, 2010 -- Yes, we know, it's winter and it's cold. But when is enough enough?
In Kansas City, the forecast high temperature for today was only 8 degrees F with blowing snow. Tonight, with 3-5 inches of snow on the ground and winds of 30-40 mph, forecasters warned of a wind chill of minus 25.
"These brutally cold temperatures will continue to result in dangerously cold wind chill values through Saturday morning," said the Kansas City office of the National Weather Service in an advisory. "This will create a potentially life threatening situation for anyone caught outdoors and unprotected for more than a few minutes."
That was hardly the worst of it. In Dickinson, N.D., the wind chill was reported at 46 below zero. Five straight days of double-digit subzero low temperatures, including negative 19, were recorded by the National Weather Service office in Chanhassen, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis-St. Paul.
At least 12 people are reported to have died because of the weather. Near Springfield, Ohio, five people died and five others were taken to a hospital after a semi tanker-truck lost control and hit a bus on Interstate 70, state police told ABC News. All of the dead were on the bus. The truck driver and six people on the bus were injured.
Police could not immediately say what caused the accident, but ABC affiliate WSYX reported there was heavy snow in the area and roads were slick.
Elsewhere, an 88-year-old woman was found dead in her unheated Chicago home, as well as a homeless man in a tent in South Carolina. Kansas City police said a man was killed Wednesday night after a multi-car accident on an icy road. He was not injured in the crash, but he apparently jumped a barrier wall to avoid other skidding cars, and fell about 80 feet.
Accident? Don't Call Illinois Police
With snow continuing to fall in the Chicago area, the Illinois State Police put an emergency snow plan into effect -- telling drivers who had accidents not to call 911 unless there were injuries. About 8 to 12 inches of snow was expected in the area.
It was enough that United Airlines canceled 130 flights this morning from O'Hare International Airport, about a third of the day's scheduled departures. In all, O'Hare officials said about 400 flights today have been canceled because of the weather.
"Seems like we just get caught up and then another storm hits," said a man on "Good Morning America" today.
Cold, Wind, Snow, and Two Months Until Spring
The city of Des Moines, Iowa, warned that its $3 million annual snow removal budget would likely be exhausted with this week's storm. After this week, the city said it would dig into its regular road-repair budget. Another 10 inches of snow was forecast overnight -- on top of the more than 28 inches of snow that fell there in December.
"The air freezes your nostrils, your eyes water and your chest burns from breathing — and that's just going from the house to your vehicle," said Jane Tetrault of Bowbells, N.D.
Joe Dietrich runs a snowblower repair shop in Bismarck, N.D., and said he had to turn away dozens of customers this week.
"My building is only so big and I can only take so many," he said.
The weather service issued wind chill advisories or warnings from North Dakota to the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, where temperatures were in the low 20s and winds came from the north at 25 to 30 mph. The biting winds in Texas caused widespread school closings. There were hard freeze warnings for the Gulf Coast from south Texas to Alabama, and "red flag" warnings for Florida, where the air was dry enough to bring the threat of wildfires.
We're Not Alone
And it's not just us. The south of England -- rarely snowed in because of the warmth of the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic -- is digging out from under nearly a foot of snow that fell on Tuesday night. Trading volume on the London Stock Exchange was reportedly down by about 20 percent Wednesday, partly because traders could not get to work.
Eurostar, the high-speed train line linking England to the European mainland by the tunnel beneath the English Channel, has had repeated troubles this winter because of snow getting into train engines. It ran into mechanical trouble again today, with a train from Brussels to London stalled in the tunnel for two hours.
On the other hand, forecasters reminded us, the cold snap is hardly global. In the remote desert town of Leonora, Western Australia, the temperature today topped 112 degrees F.