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Life-threatening Storm Ion Public Alert, power outages, -65 degrees expected

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A public alert has been issued in North Dakota where an unknown number of customers lost power Sunday in Minot amid the "historic and dangerous" Polar Vortex bringing temperatures hovering around -20 degrees with the wind chill expected to drop to as low as -65 as Winter Storm Ion takes its toll across the nation.

Emergency warming shelters have opened in North Dakota and other states to help people survive Winter Storm Ion's life-threatening conditions.

Life-threatening event

Power outage reports began coming in just after 9:00 a.m. from people living in North Dakota's southwest.

Frostbite, freezing flesh, can occur in 5 minutes or less in Ion's wind chills, according to a Public Alert issued by the state of North Dakota. The public is warned to cover as much of the face as possible if venturing out even for moments over the next few days.

"We usually don't call something 'life threatening,'" said Ken Simosko, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Bismarck told "But yes, we want people to know that this is very much a life-threatening event."

North Dakota Department of Transportation issued a travel alert for the southwestern part of the state where blowing snow is reducing visibility. Drivers were encouraged to reduce speeds and be ready for rapidly changing conditions and extremely cold wind chills.

Drivers are also advised to wear warm protective gear. This is advised even on the road in a heated car, in case of an emergency stop due to the extreme temperatures and road conditions.

Temperatures barely budged Sunday. Northwest winds made wind chills plummet.

"Life Threatening wind chills to 65 below zero are expected this afternoon through Monday," North Dakota warns in a public alert.

The power outage was caused by equipment failure and was restored to 2,185 customers at 9:40 am.
Crews were continuing to restore power for another 474 customers without power.

The most brutal news is the wind.

A Wind Chill Warning remains in effect until 6:00 P.M. CST Monday.

Rolla, N.D. reported a wind chill of 60 below zero around midday Sunday. Numerous locations in eastern Montana and North Dakota had temperatures that felt like 50s below zero.

"The heart of this cold outbreak will be felt Monday and Tuesday," reports.

"We're still looking at sustained (winds) around 20 mph, gusts to lower 30s. That's going to give the wind chill temperatures at the danger level there - we're at about minus 50 to minus 55," said Simosko. "A few up toward the (Canadian) border is closer to minus 55 to minus 60."

North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple urged superintendents to keep children's safety when deciding whether to close schools.

Places across the north will see highs struggle to rise above zero Monday. This includes Cincinnati, the first time this has happened there since Jan. 20, 1985.

The "polar vortex," as one meteorologist calls Winter Storm Ion, is sending cold air piled up at the North Pole down to the U.S., funneling it as far south as the Gulf Coast and driving temperatures below freezing for most of the nation.

Tuesday morning, Winter Storm Ion will plummet temperatures into the 20s below zero over much of the Upper Mississippi Valley, teens below zero in much of the western Great Lakes and Ohio Valley, and below zero as far south as the southern Appalachians.

Warming shelters have opened, but are not being widely publicized.

WDAY reports that Northlands Rescue Mission is giving those in need, a place to stay.

The Red Cross national news and events site is soliciting blood but not listing shelters for any of the millions of Americans who might need support to survive the life-threatening cold.

On Oct. 22, 2013, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and Red Cross President Gail McGovern signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) "strengthening their key relationship in disaster response and recovery." [Watch the video of the MOA signing here.]



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