'Polar vortex' grips North America

TORONTO - A winter storm has already blanketed areas of Canada and the north-eastern US with up to 2ft (60 cm) of snow.

It has been blamed for 16 deaths in recent days and the cancellation of some 3,700 flights.

Schools have been closed in several US states and residents urged to stay indoors for their own safety.

Temperatures in the north and central US could feel as low as -51C (-60F) with the effect of wind chill, forecasters say.

The plunging temperatures result from the polar vortex, an anti-clockwise pool of cold, dense air.

The vortex has been very strong, with the cold air locked in to Arctic Canada for a long time. Stuck in one place, the air has got colder and colder.

Cold air is dense so once it is released it travels a long way and that is why it is penetrating so far southwards, John Hammond from the BBC Weather Centre says.

"The coldest weather in years will be making its presence known from the Upper Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic region for the beginning of the work week," the US National Weather Service said in a statement.

The states of Ohio, South Dakota and Illinois are among those set to be hit. Tennessee and Kentucky are forecast to see several inches of snow.

The weather service said "an incredibly strong surge of bitterly cold Arctic air" was sweeping across the country until Tuesday.

It is set to continue to the north-east, where residents are still digging out from the week's deadly snowstorm.

Comments (2)

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Real - 7 January 2014

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Real - 7 January 2014

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