Boston and Chicago close schools as freezing temperatures grip US

The threat of deadly cold convinced officials in Boston and Chicago to close schools on Thursday, as temperatures dipped below zero overnight and forecasts predict wind chills as low as -30F (-34C). 
Boston’s mayor, Marty Walsh, cited “extreme weather conditions” as he ordered the city’s public schools closed on Wednesday night, saying in a statement that the dangers of the cold made travel to school “not worth the risk to our children and families”. The National Weather Service forecasts a high of 15F (-9C) for the city, with wind chill below zero.
In Chicago, another city where schools rarely shut down due to freezing weather, the National Weather Service (NWS) predicts a high of 13F (-11C), a wind chill in the negative double digits and a high probability of snow showers. Thursday night lows could break the record of -11F (-24C), set on 8 December 1942. More than 100 schools in the Chicago area have closed, and the public schools chief executive, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, said in a statement that “it is in the best interest of our students to cancel classes”.
Both cities are concerned with frostbite, the signs of which can appear on exposed skin in as little as 15-20 minutes. Boston is warning residents to limit time outside and to beware hypothermia, which can manifest through slurred speech, exhaustion and memory loss.
Nearly half of all Americans in 17 states from Montana to Texas, Maine and Florida, are under winter weather warnings from the NWS as an Arctic system freezes much of the midwest and north-east. Regions near the Great Lakes can expect another blast of snowfall, especially and western New York, which may receive more than a foot of precipitation. Early on Thursday, blinding snowfall caused a major pile-up on a western Pennsylvania highway, killing two.
But in Chicago and cities along the east coast such as New York and Philadelphia, the fear is not so much snow-like precipitation as the dry Arctic cold and gusts of icy wind. Winds will reach speeds of 30-40mph in some states as they race across plains and lakes with violent storms in tow. New York will have a high in the upper teens, a wind-chill temperature in the single digits and a 20% chance of snow showers. Winter advisories have fallen over the entirety of New Jersey, where officials expect dangerous cold for up to 36 hours.


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