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Bundle up, forecasters warn, as Arctic blast hits eastern U.S.

By Chelsea J. Carter, CNN
January 26, 2013 -- Updated 1522 GMT (2322 HKT)
A pedestrian bundled up against the cold walks through the streets of Manhattan on Friday, January 24, in New York City. Polar air settled in over the northeastern U.S. Wednesday, with temperatures in the teens and 20s. Forecasters warned that "bitterly cold conditions" were expected across much of the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Mideast through this weekend. A pedestrian bundled up against the cold walks through the streets of Manhattan on Friday, January 24, in New York City. Polar air settled in over the northeastern U.S. Wednesday, with temperatures in the teens and 20s. Forecasters warned that "bitterly cold conditions" were expected across much of the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Mideast through this weekend.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Winter weather advisories are in effect for parts of the Carolinas and Virginia
  • NEW: Icy conditions cause more than 200 wrecks around Charlotte, CNN affiliate reports
  • NEW: Some 100 flights are canceled out of that city's international airport

Editor's note: Winter weather in your area? Show us how the cold is affecting you.

(CNN) -- Aiman Youssef can't catch a break with the weather.

First, Superstorm Sandy leveled his home and devastated most of his neighborhood in the New York City borough of Staten Island. Now, an arctic blast that forecasters warn can have deadly consequences is gripping the region.

Late Thursday, a gas-powered heater and a tent were the only defense Youssef had against the biting cold as he handed out jackets and sweaters at a makeshift supply depot he established to help his Midland Beach neighbors who, in some cases, are still struggling to get the power back on.

"A lot of people have been coming, so we give them jackets, we give them sweaters," he told CNN affiliate NY1. "Yeah, we are trying. We are trying our best to help them."

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But even as he helped his neighbors, he wondered how long he could keep the heater running at the tent where some of his neighbors were seeking shelter. Gas, he said, is expensive.

Exposure to subfreezing temperatures has left at least three people dead in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois, authorities said.

Icy road conditions also made for hazardous travel in North Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee on Friday.

"The roads are pretty slick," said Amanda Rumball, a student who works at deSha's Restaurant in Kentucky's Fayette County.

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"In Kentucky, you never know because the weather can change fast. It gets warm and it rains. Then it turns cold, so we can get a lot more ice than snow."

Authorities reported a bus accident on Interstate Highway 65, with a minor injury, and other car accidents Friday in the state's Fayette, Henry and Scott counties.

In Indiana, four Murray State University students were injured when their bus flipped. The bus had been on its way an indoor track meet at Indiana University.

Icy conditions also caused more than 200 wrecks around Charlotte, North Carolina, CNN affiliate WCNC reported. Twenty-two people were injured in those wrecks, it said, including at least two with life-threatening injuries.

National Weather Service forecasters urged caution early Friday as they warned that "bitterly cold conditions" were expected to continue across much of the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast into the weekend. They predicted 1 to 4 inches of snow for areas in the Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic regions Friday, with the Carolinas and Tennessee Valley getting freezing rain.

By late Friday, winter weather advisories remained in effect for parts of South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

The snow was expected to move later in the day into the eastern United States. It was not good news in portions of New York and New Jersey, where homes destroyed by Superstorm Sandy in places such as Staten Island and Far Rockaway, Queens, lacked basic utilities needed to restore heat.

With temperatures plummeting, warming centers were opened in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and other areas, according to various emergency management officials.

In Asbury Park, New Jersey, a traditional polar bear club plunge into frigid waters had to be postponed because of the single-digit wind chill.

"It wouldn't be safe to have people out there in their bathing suits," said club spokesman Traudy Grande.

Schools shuttered, planes grounded

Travelers were already feeling the effects of the storm.

Approximately 100 flights were canceled at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport on Friday.

There were about 20 cancellations at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport, according Mindy Hamlin, a spokeswoman.

Emily Richard, a spokeswoman for Nashville International Airport in Tennessee, said all inbound American Airlines flights for Thursday night and Friday morning were canceled.

Dozens of school systems in Tennessee and some in northern Georgia said they would be closed.

Schools in Raleigh, North Carolina, will close early, a spokesman with Wake County schools said.

"We're going to make sure we put a plan in place so that the buses are rolling while it's still safe and the students are back home before weather becomes an issue," he told CNN affiliate WRAL.

The affiliate reported that North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory canceled his Friday evening schedule on account of the icy conditions.

"We do want to encourage people to be very, very careful on what are anticipated to be very slick roads throughout North Carolina," WRAL reported he said. "We don't want to see anyone take any risks."

Caught in the snow

The snow in Pennsylvania played a role in the apprehension of suspected armed robbers, authorities said.

Investigators in Moon Township, just outside of Pittsburgh, tracked the footprints of three people and arrested them in connection with the robbery of a taxi driver at gunpoint Wednesday, police told CNN affiliate KDKA.

The footprints in the fresh snow, according to police, led from the scene of the robbery to the front door of one of the suspects.

CNN's Steve Almasy, Joe Sutton and Rachel Rodriguez contributed to this report.

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