By Mary Wisniewski
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Bitter cold and high winds surging down from the Arctic pushed wind chills to dangerous lows across the U.S. upper Midwest on Monday, forcing officials to close schools and warn drivers off roads, and slowing public transit and river traffic.
Chicago, Minneapolis, Milwaukee and other parts of the upper Midwest are forecast to have two consecutive days of subzero highs on Monday and Tuesday, while most of the Northeast will see highs in the single digits and teens on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to Accuweather.com.
National Weather Service meteorologist Andrew Krein blamed the weather on a surge of arctic high pressure out of Canada that has spread over the upper Midwest and central plains.
Even weather-hardy Midwesterners expressed weariness on Monday with the sub-zero cold snap, the second this month.
"I'm real sick of it," said Romik Stewart, 20, who was waiting for a bus in Milwaukee to go to his job at a fast food restaurant. "I've had enough of this already. It's too much."
Officials closed schools in Chicago, Milwaukee, Cincinnati and the Cleveland area and in most districts across Minnesota on Monday due to the biting cold. Chicago and Milwaukee public schools also will be closed Tuesday, as will the Indianapolis city government.
The frigid temperatures also are causing ice to accumulate on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, slowing the movement of grain barges to the U.S. Gulf, according to Drew Lerner, a meteorologist at World Weather Inc.
"I'm very ready for the spring," said 18-year-old Caroline Burns, a student at Marquette University in Milwaukee, as she walked from her residence hall to class.
Nearly 900 flights have been canceled within, into and out of the United States on Monday, according to FlightAware.com, which tracks flights.
Even the south is seeing extremes this week.
Wind gusts of up to 35 mph knocked down power lines in the Dallas-Forth Worth area in Texas and temperatures were expected to fall into the 20s overnight from highs in the 60s and 70s over the weekend, the weather service said.
Galveston, Texas, public schools and most schools in New Orleans will be closed on Tuesday due to winter weather, according to officials and media reports.
Heavy snow was expected starting on Tuesday across eastern North Carolina, while coastal South Carolina will get rare ice accumulation with some snow and temperatures below freezing on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.
In Alaska, the roughly 4,000 residents of Valdez remained cut off to road traffic from the rest of the state Monday after weekend avalanches blocked the road into and out of the coastal town, officials said.
(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee, Julie Ingwersen in Chicago, David Bailey in Minneapolis, Kim Palmer in Cleveland, Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, N.C., Harriet McLeod in Charleston, S.C., and Karen Brooks in Austin; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)