Ottawa (AFP) - A homeless man froze to death at a bus stop in Ohio and people in Pennsylvania resorted to a bulldozer to clear snow Wednesday, as an Arctic snap gripped most of Canada and the northern United States.
In Canada, extreme cold warnings were issued for scores of communities across the country, including the heavily-populated provinces of Ontario and Quebec.
In the United States, a homeless man froze to death at a bus stop in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio, local media said, quoting police and a homeless charity.
While Toronto reported temperatures of minus 15 C (5 F) and Ottawa minus 25 C, the coldest spot in Canada was minus 42.8 C in Armstrong, Ontario, according to Environment Canada.
Extreme cold warnings are issued "when very cold temperatures or wind chill creates an elevated risk to health such as frost bite and hypothermia," the government agency said.
The temperatures were 10 to 20 degrees below what is normal for the season, said meteorologist Alexandre Parent with Environment Canada.
The deep cold is forecast to remain until early January, he said.
"In my memory I have never seen cold weather that settles for such a long time in such a broad expanse," Parent said.
High winds of up to 120 kilometers (76 miles) per hour linked to the low temperatures have left almost 160,000 homes in the eastern province of Nova Scotia -- almost one-third of the power company's customers -- without electricity, officials said.
In the United States, brutal sub-zero temperatures were recorded in places like Duluth, Minnesota (minus 37.7 C) on Tuesday, and Minot, North Dakota (minus 29 C).
- Record snowfall in Erie -
A storm dumped a record-breaking five feet (nearly 1.5 meters) of snow in a 48-hour period on the Pennsylvania city of Erie, forcing officials to declare an emergency.
"The snow's been crazy, oh my gosh, tons of snow. Running out of places to put it," said Tom Nowosielski, whose department store was doing a brisk trade in shovels, road salt, and car tire chains.
He said he planned to use a bulldozer to help a family member clear his driveway. "That's a first for us," he said.
Residents shared stunning photos of the whiteout on social media, with meteorologists attributing the 58 inches (147 centimeters) of snow that fell over Christmas Day, Monday, to Tuesday evening to icy winds blowing over the adjoining Lake Erie, one of North America's Great Lakes.
More snow was expected at a rate of up to an inch or two per hour as residents were warned to stay off the roads.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced that the National Guard was "providing high clearance all-terrain military vehicles to aid local agencies with medical emergency and law enforcement response."
According to data from the National Weather Service, the 34 inches of snow that fell on December 25 was the highest the city had ever recorded, eclipsing the previous high of 20 inches on November 22, 1956.
Erie has received 97 inches of snow in December, making it the snowiest month in the city's history -- which usually averages about 100 inches of snow in an entire season.
In Minot, whose Air Force base houses a battery of Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles, the air was so cold that residents said it hurt simply to breathe in.
"The air hurts your face. And it hurts to breathe. Your skin instantly steams when you go outside," said Morgan Alonia, 27, manager of the Broadway Bean and Bagel cafe.
"If you put your hand out the door, your hand will steam," he said. "We took a pot of boiling water outside yesterday, and threw it in the air and made snow."
Unusually low temperatures were also recorded in the US northern Atlantic states.
In New York, weather authorities told residents to expect temperatures of between minus 12.7 C and minus 6.6 C through Saturday, which they described as "well below the normal," and Governor Andrew Cuomo warned residents to prepare for "dangerously cold weather ahead."