It seemed like Mother Nature wanted 2014 to start with a bang. Many residents in the eastern two-thirds of the United States dealt with a variety of winter weather hazards, ranging from record-setting cold temperatures to snowstorms. They were considered deadly, too, resulting in about a dozen deaths.
The array of historic weather events began right before New Year's Day, when two low pressure systems began to enter the United States at the same time. One was a clipper-like system that came from Canada, and the storm itself brought moderate snow accumulations for parts of the northern Plains and the Great Lakes. After the clipper exited the regions, that gave way to colder temperatures and lake-enhanced snows along the lakes. Several communities near Chicago have reported more than a foot of snow, which was not all that common.
The other system trekked along the East Coast, and that resulted in a major winter storm for the big cities in the Northeast. A lot of moisture, along with the clipper system from the Midwest, helped provide the ingredients to create heavy snows and travel headaches for New York City, Boston and Philadelphia. According to the National Weather Service, over twenty inches of snow fell in Boxford, Massachusetts. As the winter storm exited, much colder air plagued, resulting in temperatures being about 30 degrees below normal (Fahrenheit) in the Northeast.
The more severe cold temperatures, something that the United States hadn't seen in decades, arrived on the heels of a massive winter storm, again affecting the Midwest. This dangerous storm dumped over a foot of snow in some places in Indiana and Illinois. Many highways, including interstates, were closed because they were extremely dangerous and impassable with the drifting snow and whiteout conditions.
Indianapolis was one of the hardest hit cities, where almost a foot of snow fell. That forced Indiana governor Mike Pence to shut down state government offices. He advised the residents to stay home due to snow-covered streets and subzero temperatures. Even the Indianapolis Public Schools district was shut down because of the snow and cold, and that hadn't happened since 1978, when a blizzard paralyzed the city.
The arriving Arctic air was expected to shatter records for the eastern half of the United States, and wind chills were forecast to be near negative 60 degrees in some parts of the Midwest. That would be a good reminder to stay in warm places, and dress accordingly. Frostbite occurs in minutes in this kind of weather, and that can turn out to be deadly. Again, dress accordingly for cold, snowy weather.