Arctic air settled over the eastern two-thirds of the United States Tuesday, setting record low temperatures, forcing school closings and disrupting transportation amid safety concerns across the region, dpa reported.
The National Weather Service said the extreme cold was brought on by a "very frigid, arctic air mass" packing "dangerous, and in some cases life-threatening" low temperatures and wind chills.
Wind chill warnings were in effect Tuesday from the northern Rockies to the Atlantic Seaboard with wind chill factors - air temperature compounded by wind speed - estimated as low as -29 Celsius to -45 Celsius possible, the weather service said.
The White House said federal emergency management officials were monitoring the extreme cold temperatures and stand ready to assist if requested.
Temperatures were expected to begin warming Wednesday.
Blizzard and "lake effect" snow warnings and winter weather advisories were in place for the eastern shores of the Great Lakes.
Record cold temperatures of -34.4 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and -32.2 in Montana were recorded. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that snow removal was operating in emergency mode.
West of Chicago, more than 500 passengers spent the night on a train that was stuck on the tracks due to heavy snow. Employees tried in vain to free the train before deciding that it was safer to keep passengers overnight in the train, keeping them fed and warm until daylight, a spokesman for Amtrack said.
The passengers were picked up Tuesday morning and bused to Chicago.
In Washington, a cracked rail causes major morning delays on the capital's Metro light-rail system, which runs above ground in outlying areas.