Chicago warehouse turns to ice after firefighter's water freezes as Midwest experiences day 4 of cold snap

  • A wave of arctic air from Canada is sweeping through the Midwest into the Northeast
  • Historic warehouse in Chicago's Bridgeport neighborhood was destroyed in five-alarm fire last night; building is today sheathed in layers of ice
  • Authorities believe the cold could have killed at least four people so far and are issuing health warnings
  • The air north of Great Lakes 'colder than that of the North Pole'

By Beth Stebner

PUBLISHED: 06:04 EST, 23 January 2013 | UPDATED: 05:43 EST, 24 January 2013

A deep arctic freeze has locked parts of the Midwest to the Northeast in their fourth day of glacial temperatures felt as low as -36F degrees - freezing fountains, faces, and as breathtakingly seen in Chicago, entire buildings.

In the Windy City firemen battled a five-alarm warehouse fire in single-digit temperatures last night, with the extreme cold hindering the process. Water froze on firefighters’ gloves almost as soon as it left their hoses, and today, the entire façade of the building, located on the city’s South Side was coated in sheets of ice.

In New York's Manhattan, commuters similarly woke to temperatures around 12-degrees today, but with wind gusts of 15-20 mph, it felt more like five below as people started their work day.

The cold snap arrived on Saturday night as waves of Arctic air swept south from Canada, pushing temperatures to dangerous lows and leaving a section of the country well-versed in winter's pains reeling.

Blistering cold: A deep arctic freeze has locked parts of the Midwest to the Northeast in below freezing temperatures as seen with this frozen fountain in New York City's Bryant Park

Blistering cold: A deep arctic freeze has locked parts of the Midwest to the Northeast in below freezing temperatures as seen with this frozen fountain in New York City's Bryant Park on Wednesday

Blistering: A dusting of snow greets a bundled up bicyclist on New York's Brooklyn Bridge with wind gusts of 15-20mph feeling like five below

Blistering: A dusting of snow greets a bundled up bicyclist on New York's Brooklyn Bridge with wind gusts of 15-20mph feeling like five below

No mercy: The cold snap straight from the Arctic is expected to last for the rest of the week, with commuters in Boston seen struggling through their own freeze

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The big freeze: Firefighters spray down hot spots on an ice covered warehouse that caught fire Tuesday night in Chicago; temperatures across the country plummeted last night as the mercury climbed as low as 50 degrees below freezing

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Fire and ice: Chicago fire department officials said the warehouse fire it is the biggest the department has had to battle in years

Frozen ice covered a pair of gloves belonging to a Chicago firefighter in single-digit temperatures during a five-alarm blaze in a warehouse

Freezing temperatures: Frozen ice covered a pair of gloves belonging to a Chicago firefighter in single-digit temperatures

Icicles form on a fire hose at the Chicago warehouse fire. he coldest location in the lower 48 states Monday was Embarrass, Minnesota, at -36C, according to the National Weather Service

Clinging: Icicles form on a fire hose as Windy City firefighters battled last night's blaze

Destroyed: The warehouse, in the city's South Side Bridgeport neighborhood was destroyed by the blaze

Destroyed: The warehouse, in the city's South Side Bridgeport neighborhood was destroyed by the blaze

Wintry conditions from Minneapolis to Washington marked the coldest conditions in many parts of the United States in four years, but were nowhere near the record lows for January, meteorologists said.

'This cold that we are experiencing right now came straight from the arctic,' said Tom Kines, an AccuWeather.com senior meteorologist.

Washington, D.C., reported its coldest weather in four years, reaching 16F (-9C degrees) at Reagan National Airport on early Wednesday.

The National Weather Service issued a wind chill warning for New Hampshire until Wednesday evening, with values as low as 43-degrees below zero (minus 42 degrees Celsius) because of steady winds up to 20 miles per hour and gusts up to 30 mph.

Temperatures in Minnesota were on par with New York state, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine.

West in Chicago, the warehouse fire was the biggest the city has seen in seven years, the Chicago Tribune reports, requiring a third of the city’s firefighters – 200 men and women – to battle the blaze.

The abandoned warehouse was still smouldering this morning, requiring additional firefighters to scale icy ladders to extinguish the hot spots.

Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago told the paper said the gelid temperatures made fighting the blaze even more dangerous.

‘We had the water department come out and steam off our ladders,’ he said.

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Coated: A firefighter looked at the surface of the vacant warehouse; more than 200 men and women fought the blaze last night

Cold snap: Trucks in Chicago are frozen in place under sheets of ice as an Arctic blast continues to grip the U.S. Midwest and Northeast

Cold snap: Trucks in Chicago are frozen in place under sheets of ice as an Arctic blast continues to grip the U.S. Midwest and Northeast

Tricky situation: Firefighters were attempting to tackle a blaze at this warehouse in Chicago but their water froze as soon as it left the hoses

Tricky situation: Firefighters were attempting to tackle a blaze at this warehouse in Chicago but their water froze as soon as it left the hoses

Frozen to the spot: Temperatures have dropped as low as 50 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (-46C)

Frozen to the spot: Temperatures have dropped as low as 50 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (-46C)

Mighty fire: Firemen required additional equipment to fight the hot spots Wednesday morning, and also needed steam heat to de-ice their ladders

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Frozen over: Massive icicles hang off a ramp as firefighters continue to fight the fire; officials say the blaze is one of the largest fires in recent years

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White out: Ice-covered trucks are blanketed in smoke after a warehouse fire

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Frosty: Details of the warehouse can be seen through the ice; Chicago today experienced single-digit temperatures

Thick: Layers of ice cling to the facade of the vacant warehouse, right, and left, and icy scene

The frigid temperatures across the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast could have played a role in at least four reported deaths.

Residents in areas of the Midwest that are used to the cold are finding ways to cope. Faye Whitbeck, a resident of International Falls, Minnesota and the president of the town’s chamber of commerce, said that she’s using a Snuggie to keep warm.

The temperature along the town, which is near the Canadian border, was -30F on Tuesday morning. The so-called 'Nation's Icebox' reached a balmy 3 below for a high. 'I pulled out a coat that went right to my ankles this morning and I wore two scarves,’ she told the Associated Press

Among the coldest temperatures recorded Tuesday was 35 below at Crane Lake, Minnesota, a National Weather Service forecaster said early Wednesday.

A commuter bundles up against the breathtaking cold in Chicago. Temperatures in the area were hovering around zero with sub-zero wind chill reading hitting -10C

Bundling up: A commuter hides beneath her fur hood and red scarf while commuting in Chicago; temperatures in the Windy City hovered in the single digits

Brutal: Gino Delgadillo of Chicago makes his way through cold weather in Elgin, Illinois, , while ice forms on the branches of a bush at Lions Park in Mundelein

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Cloaking: Lawrence University student Joshua Hebda is bundled against the cold as he walks on campus in Appleton, Wisconsin

The coldest location in the lower 48 states Monday was Embarrass, Minnesota, at 36 below. On Sunday it was Babbitt, Minnesota, at 29 below, according to the National Weather Service.

Forecasters said late Tuesday that overnight temperatures wouldn't get that low, but warned it was still frigid: Embarrass, was up to 15 below by late Tuesday night

The bitter conditions were expected to persist into the weekend in the Midwest through the eastern half of the U.S., said Shawn DeVinny, a National Weather Service meteorologist in suburban Minneapolis.

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Current situation: As the cold snap continues, much of the Midwest, and especially the Great Lakes region, was hit with another day of punishing cold

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Chill factor: Areas of Minnesota and Wisconsin have the coldest temperatures, hitting more than 30 below freezing; the Northeast has also been hit by the snap

Ariana Laffey, a 30-year-old homeless woman, kept warm with a blanket, three pairs of pants and six shirts as she sat on a milk crate begging near Chicago's Willis Tower on Tuesday morning. She said she and her husband spent the night under a bridge, bundled up under a half-dozen blankets.

'We're just trying to make enough to get a warm room to sleep in tonight,' Laffey told the AP.

But in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where winter temperatures are normally well below freezing, some homeless shelters had open beds. Shelter managers suspect people who needed a place to stay were already using the services before the temperatures reached more extreme lows.

Bundled: Karen Gaskell wears a heavy muffler as she takes a walk in Minneapolis, left, and right, a worker drives a snow blower as she clears snow off a sidewalk

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Big Apple: A man is bundled up against the cold on New York's 34th Street in Midtown Manhattan; with the wind chill, the temperature in New York feels like -5F

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Liberty and heat for all: John Reed stays warm while enthusiastically advertising tax refund services on a cold winter day in Buffalo, New York on Wednesday

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Desperation: Anthony Cavallo uses hay to insulate his trailer in preparation for a cold night in Union Beach, New Jersey; he was forced to live in a trailer after his house was damaged in Sandy

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Occupy warm homes: A woman crosses Wall Street between amid the steam, in New York's Financial District

The first cold snap of the season was in early December. Overnight temperatures dropped to 9 below with the wind chill. In Vermillion, South Dakota, a water pipe break forced the evacuation of a dormitory at the University of South Dakota, with nearly 500 students offered hotel rooms.

In Michigan's Upper Peninsula, residents woke to a wind chill that made it feel like 35 below. The temperature in Madison, Wis., was a whopping 1 degree above just before midday Tuesday. For northern Illinois, it was the first time in almost two years that temperatures had dipped below zero.

The temperature in Detroit was a toasty 7 degrees with a 10 below wind chill around midday. City officials said they planned to extend hours at its two warming centers. A warming center run by St. Peter and Paul Jesuit Church downtown that usually sees 50 to 60 people on a typical winter day had taken in about 90 people Tuesday morning.

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Winter mess: Ice coats the shoreline along the Delaware Bay in the Reeds Beach section of Middle Township, New Jersey; punishing winds and sub-zero temperatures whipped across the Atlantic Seaboard

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Midwest might: On one of the coldest days of the year, ice fishermen brave the cold on Bush Lake in Holly, Michigan

Police in Milwaukee, where the temperature was just 2 degrees at noon, checked under freeway overpasses to find the homeless and urge them to find a shelter. The United Way of Greater Milwaukee has donated $50,000 to two homeless shelters so they can open overflow centers.

'We're incredibly relieved,' said Donna Rongholt-Migan, executive director of the Cathedral Center, a Milwaukee shelter that received $25,000. 'I was walking my dog last night and I couldn't feel my legs just after walking around the block.'

Schools across the region either started late or didn't open at all. Districts in Duluth, Minn., and Ashland, Bayfield, Hurley, Washburn and Superior in far northern Wisconsin closed amid warnings that the wicked wind chills could freeze exposed flesh within a minute.

'It's brutal,' Courtney Thrall, a 21-year-old University of Wisconsin-Madison student, said as she waited for her bus, her fur-trimmed parka hood pulled over her head.

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Mercury falling; The temperature in downtown Scranton, Pennsylvania was a bitter nine degrees; a woman made her way down Spruce Street

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Daily task: South Boston residents walk their dogs at Castle Island in Boston; one lucky Westie looked pleased to be wearing his green coat

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Just breathe: People brave the brisk weather as a cold snap grips Ottawa, Canada today; temperatures hit the low single-digits, but in some areas, the mercury fell even lower

On Sunday, a 70-year-old man was found frozen in his unheated home in Des Plaines, Illinois. And in Green Bay, Wisconsin, a 38-year-old man was found dead outside his home Monday morning. Authorities in both cases said the victims died of hypothermia and cold exposure, with alcohol a possible contributing factor.

A 77-year-old Illinois woman also was found dead near her car in southwestern Wisconsin on Saturday night, and a 61-year-old Minnesota man was pronounced dead at a hospital after he was found in a storage building Saturday morning.

The plunging temperatures made life plenty miserable for plumbers.

Workers in Madison had to repair at least four water main breaks since Sunday afternoon. Jim Gilchrist, a third-generation plumber in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, said he received about five or six calls Tuesday from people with frozen water pipes in their homes. Few pipes had actually burst - yet.

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Four-legged and frozen: Sheila Helm walks her English cocker spaniel, Jackson, near Lake Harriet in Minneapolis, dressing him in booties and a hooded dog jacket

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Birds of a feather: A flock of geese huddles to stay warm on a slab of ice enveloped by steam on the Rock River in Watertown, Wisconsin as arctic air pushes through the Upper Midwest

 VIDEO  Midwest shivers under punishing cold snap

By Staff 01/23/2013 21:43:00