More Than 80 Million Americans Pounded by Winter Storm

Ice, snow and dangerous conditions snarl traffic and cancel close to 3,000 flights.
3:00 | 01/21/14

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Transcript for More Than 80 Million Americans Pounded by Winter Storm
And as we come on the air, 84 million of us are facing a polar freeze together again. Ice, snow, stinging winds, warnings up from North Carolina to new England. Chicago's famous waterway, a polar obstacle course. The federal government shut down. The Washington monument shrouded in white. And everywhere across the snow zone, Americans bundling up again and taking out the shovels, the umbrellas, again. Our extreme weather team is reporting across the storm zone, tonight. And meteorologist ginger zee starts us off right now. Reporter: From the barely there roads in the great Lakes. To the frightening spinouts on the east coast. Tonight, a blaring reminder, that this winter is no joke. In Indianapolis, the storm barreling through the morning rush, folding a FedEx truck in three. In northwest Indiana, more than 20 inches of the lake-effect snow swallowing traffic. The snow, crippling Philadelphia. The nation's capital, shutting down. At the airports, a rush to deice at JFK. Almost 3,000 cancellations. And more than 2,000 delays. Working outside, forget about it. Forget about it. You can stay home, stay at home. Reporter: We went searching for the brave soles who can't stay home. And ran into Sheila, a postal worker, who just six months ago, talked to us about battling record heat. I interviewed you six months ago. But it was hot. And now, not, right? Now, it's okay. It's not too bad. Reporter: Tonight, same grin. Just snow-covered. I'd rather the cold than the heat. Reporter: The storm is still painting the east coast white. Watch that clock. The storm will pull away early Wednesday morning. Behind it, though, incredible cold and intense winds. A blizzard warning for the cape in Massachusetts, where many are still rebuilding after that last winter storm just weeks ago. Pull them up. Tie them up. And hope mother nature doesn't take them again. Reporter: We now have a state of emergency for New York, New Jersey and Tennessee. Philadelphia and Boston schools, shut down tomorrow. So, this is about halfway done. Whatever you've already had, some places are going to double that. And then, we have another headline that we have to look at. The cold. Look at that map. It starts tomorrow. You can see where the 10s, the 20s, the 30s, the 40s exist. And it goes all the way through Friday. This cold doesn't break until the end of the weekend. Diane, I have my electric gloves all ready for this big polar air mass. Going to take a closer look at those when you get back, ginger. Thank you. With all of the cold we want to show you tonight something happening we've not seen before. The great Lakes freezing up at a fast clip. ABC's Alex Perez in a kind of 21st century ice age, showing us. Reporter: It looks like the north pole than the midwest. This endless pool of ice is lake Michigan, captured on a camera, flying on a drone, high above. It's just massive. Reporter: Last year, only 38% of the great Lakes were frozen over. This year, researchers predict the ice coverage to be almost double that for January and February. Coast guard petty officer brad Houston says the extra ice has kept them busy, responding to calls all season. A lot of people will see this its and think, I can stand on this. But your hand goes right through. Yep. Exactly. They fall straight through. Reporter: Another unexpected side-effect of the arctic air, propane problems. The cold blast draining supplies and creating a propane shortage for the almost 6 million households that rely on propane for home heating. And prices are up 20% in some places. But the polar chill has been good for some. Look at that. 14 inches of ice. Reporter: In lake placid, New York, it's what they need for a major hockey tournament this weekend. We had no choice to flood the Rinks because the ice gets so cold, that it cracks. Reporter: And on lake superior, for the first time in five years, visitors are walking on the lake for a glimpse at the stunning sea caves on the apostle islands, covered in millions of icicles. A frozen masterpiece, in the middle of a relentless winter. Alex Perez, ABC news, east Chicago. And the arctic blast, cold, is not going away soon. We asked ABC's gio Benitez for a survival guide tonight for the best coats. And a reality check on how much heat we really lose, how fast. Reporter: Emergency rooms tonight, getting ready for an influx of frostbite and hypothermia. Look how fast heat seeps out when you're not bundled up. Watch this hand. Remove the glove and in 60 seconds, the Orange and yellow heat disappears and frostbite begins. I'm wearing three layers of down jacket under this one. Look at what happens when we turn to this infrared camera. You see the bright spots right there? That's heat escaping. That's not a good thing. Not all winter coats are created equal. We took to the streets of Boston to show how. You're wearing a fleece jacket. You have a down. She's losing heat on the shoulders. Looks pretty warm. And look at these. Who do you think feels the coldest? I have layers on under this. Reporter: Look at her zipper. Heat escaping right through it. But her friend's zipper is covered up by a wind flap. He's warm. And if you think wool is the answer -- you're losing a lot of body heat through your jacket. Reporter: The warmest winter coat is a down coat, the longer, the better. With the label saying 650 to 800 fill. It has a waterproof exterior and a hood with a drawstring. You still want to wear a hat underneath. Gio Benitez, ABC news, Boston. Our winter team will be staying out to cover it all.

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