• Reuters

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Record-breaking cold that gripped the U.S. East and Midwest on Thursday snarled travel, shut schools and filled homeless shelters.

Snow expected to accumulate to about 3 feet (1 meter) deep was falling in upstate New York near Watertown, and snow already blanketing South Dakota was whipped into a “ground blizzard” by winds that made driving treacherous, said meteorologist Dan Petersen of the National Weather Service.

The coldest place in the country Thursday was Estcourt Station, the northernmost point in Maine, with temperatures of minus 38 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 39 Celsius), he said.

Records were broken from Montpelier, Vermont, at minus 20 F (minus 29 C), to Jackson, Kentucky, with minus 1 F (minus 18 C), he said. Snow flurries were reported as far south as Jacksonville, Florida.

Cold bitter enough to freeze fuel lines on school buses forced schools to close from Portland, Maine, to Chicago. Train rails cracked by the cold caused delays for commuters in Washington, D.C. Weather also hung up air travel with 1,937 delays and 515 cancellations by mid-afternoon, according to FlightAware.com.

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