07 January 2014 11:45 | By AFP, Reuters/MS Editors
Winter storm hits eastern United States

A massive winter storm has created travel chaos



First winter storm of 2014 (© JIM YOUNG/Newscom/RTR)
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A heavy snowstorm and dangerously low temperatures gripped the northeastern United States last Friday, delaying flights, paralysing road travel and closing schools and government offices across the region.

Dangerously cold arctic air swept across a huge swath of the United States on Monday making travel treacherous, forcing schools to close and prompting officials to plead with residents to stay indoors.

A shift in a weather pattern known as the "polar vortex" triggered a drastic drop in temperatures to lows not seen in two decades, and coincided with wind chill warnings in much of the east of the country.

Four Chicago men aged 48 to 63 died of apparent heart attacks while shovelling the snow over the weekend, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The cold snap came after two massive winter storms snarled travel, grounded thousands of flights and dumped as much as two feet (60 centimetres) of snow in the first few days of the year.

More than 4,300 US flights were cancelled Monday -- nearly half of those in Chicago -- and more than 6,500 were delayed, according to FlightAware.

The ciy of Chicago was among scores of municipalities which told parents to keep their children at home rather than risk sending them out into winds so bitter that skin could freeze in a matter of minutes.

The governor of Minnesota cancelled school across the entire state on Monday.

Boston and New York are among the places to have been worst hit.

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