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Deadly deep freeze keeps grip on eastern U.S., four die

News agency

Tuesday, January 2, 2018, 5:23 PM - A record-shattering arctic freeze kept its grip on the U.S. Northeast on Tuesday, closing schools and affecting travel on the first business day of 2018, and forecasters warned the region could be walloped by snow later in the week.

Boston tied a 100-year-old record on Tuesday when it marked seven consecutive days that the temperature did not top 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6.7 degrees Celsius), and people whose work kept them outside struggled to find ways to keep warm.

"I'm here since '78 and I don't remember cold weather like this," Yiannis Galanopoulos, who sells $3 cheese pretzels from a cart in New York's Times Square, said as he warmed his hands over the glowing charcoals that keep his wares hot. 

"But a living is a living," he said, adding that if the temperature dipped much lower, he might rethink the trip from his home in West New York, New Jersey. "It's not worth it to take a chance."

Visit our Complete Guide to Winter 2017/18 for tips on how to to survive it, and much more.

Officials throughout the region urged residents to alert social services if they saw people stuck outside in the cold.

"We want every resident to have shelter and warmth," Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser said on Twitter. Bitter cold was blamed for at least four deaths across the United States over the New Year's holiday weekend.

Pedestrians walk along the street bundled for extreme cold in New York, U.S., January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Frigid weather had gripped much of the country for the past few days, breaking long-standing temperature records in cities from Omaha, Nebraska, to Aberdeen, South Dakota, but the weather was forecast to warm up in the coming days. 

However, the higher temperatures were expected to be accompanied by heavy snow in the East Coast by as early as Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

"New York City will probably expect anywhere from 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm) of snow," said weather service meteorologist Greg Gallina. "The maximum swath will be from southern Rhode Island to the south of Boston and into Maine. Southeast Maine will experience anywhere from 12 to 15 inches (30-38 cm) of snow."

A pedestrian walks along the street bundled for extreme cold in New York, U.S., January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Gallina added that cities in northern Florida will experience freezing rain and maybe some sleet. Coastal areas in Georgia and South Carolina will start to experience smaller amounts of snow, from as early as late Tuesday. 

In Iowa, Massachusetts, Indiana, Ohio and North Carolina,  school districts canceled or delayed the start of classes as bitterly cold weather, 20 degrees to 30 degrees F (11 to 17 degrees C) below normal, were expected across the eastern half of the United States. 

Pedestrians bundled against the cold make their way through Times Square in New York City, New York, U.S., January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar

The cold was blamed for the deaths of two men in separate incidents in Milwaukee, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. A homeless man was found dead on a porch in Charleston, West Virginia, while another man was found dead outside a church in Detroit, and police said he may have frozen to death, local news outlets reported.  

The cold should ease across most of the country heading into the weekend, Gallina said. 

"We're going to see a steady of warm-ups at the end of the weekend when temperatures become average again across the Great Plains and into the Midwest by Sunday," he said. "Another cold blast will come in on Monday, but it won't be as brutal. This warm spell will basically be a short respite from the severely cold weather."

 (By Gina Cherelus and Jonathan Allen. Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)

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