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Sub-zero Arctic storm blasts nation

Blizzard conditions expected to continue through the night in parts of North Dakota
Blizzard conditions expected to continue through the night in parts of North Dakota
NOAA

Millions of Americans this weekend made last minute preparations for Winter Storm Ion's bitter Arctic blast expected to send temperatures plummeting to their coldest in 20 years.

The northeastern United States and parts of Canada have endured heavy snow and deadly sub-zero conditions since Winter Storm Hercules struck on Christmas Eve.

Today, a new life-threatening storm named Ion is moving the deep freeze through the Midwest and threatening areas as far south as Baton Rouge, Louisiana where school closures have been announced due to the cold.

Wind chill from the rare "polar vortex" are expected to make it feel as cold as -65ºF (-51ºC) in places, weather forecasters say. The wind chill had already dropped to -20 in North Dakota on Monday morning and dangerous wind chills are expected to continue east of Highway 83 tonight.

Some town and city authorities have issued public warnings for people to stock food and stay indoors to survive the storm.

Exposed skin to such harsh freezing conditions could suffer frostbite in as little as five minutes, experts warn. Hypothermia can result in amputations or death.

The storm is "life-threatening," as described by the National Weather Service.

"The coldest temperatures in almost two decades will spread into the northern and central U.S. today behind an Arctic cold front," it said.

"Combined with gusty winds, these temperatures will result in life-threatening wind-chill values as low as 60 degrees (Fahrenheit) below zero. Also, heavy snow will develop from the eastern Plains to the Great Lakes today, with up to a foot of accumulation possible."

Authorities are warning people that they could face issues like cars that won't start and flooded roads that quickly ice over caused by water pipes that freeze and burst.

If venturing outside is necessary, precautions have been listed to survive.

[See: Winter Storm Ion precautions issued, drinking alcohol can be fatal]

Thousands of flights out of major airports like Chicago O'Hare International and New York's John F. Kennedy were delayed or canceled Sunday due to weather-related problems. At O'Hare, one of the country's busiest airports, officials said that more than 1,300 flights were canceled.

Minnesota and North Dakota were expected to experience the worst weather.

Areas in North Dakota experienced power outages on Sunday.

Only one week ago in North Dakota, a mile-long train carrying crude oil derailed, exploded, triggered a “giant fireball” and sent thousands of people running to evacuation centers to prevent being poisoned.