A record-breaking cold snap has taken hold of much of the northern United States, with temperatures in Minnesota plunging to an unprecedented -37C.
Forecasters said the bitter weather is expected to stay put for days to come and warned of hypothermia and frostbite from arctic air settling over the central US and spreading east.
New York City saw temperatures dip well below -5C, as people braving the arctic conditions witnessed one fountain in Bryant Park partially freeze over.
People in Erie, Pennsylvania, continued to dig out from a storm that brought 34 inches of snow on Christmas Day, smashing the daily snowfall record for the Great Lakes city of 8 inches. More than 65 inches (5.4ft) in total fell on the city in just a few days.
The National Weather Service reported International Falls, Minnesota, the self-proclaimed Icebox of the Nation, plunged to -37C on Wednesday, breaking the old record of -32C set in 1924. Hibbing, Minnesota, hit -28C, breaking the old record of -27C set in 1964.
The subzero temperatures even froze Minnehaha Falls waterfall in Minnesota. Park officials said people braving the ice to get behind the falls were not only putting themselves in danger, they were breaking the law.
Wind chill advisories or warnings were in effect for much of New England, northern Pennsylvania and New York. Those places and states in the northern Plains and Great Lakes were projected to see highs in the teens or single digits and lows below zero for the rest of the week and into the new year.
The National Weather Service said wind chills in many areas Thursday could make temperatures feel below zero.
Strong westerly winds over Lake Erie picked up moisture, developed into snow and converged with opposing winds, dumping snow in a band along the shore from Ohio to New York, said Zach Sefcovic, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Cleveland.
Sabrina Ram drove into Erie on Christmas Eve to visit her parents just as the snow began to fall. Ram, who lives in suburban Washington, DC, and her father spent five hours on Christmas and two hours on Tuesday clearing the driveway.
"In D.C., we'd be out of commission for weeks," Ms Ram said. "Things here are pretty much back to normal now."
In New York, communities near Lake Ontario's eastern end, including Redfield and Boylston, also saw around five feet of snow this week.
Officials said the storm's timing was good, since people were off the streets and staying home for Christmas, giving ploughs more space to clear streets.
By Wednesday, Erie's roads were relatively clear, emergency calls were relatively slow and the big task was digging out, County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper said.
"We're used to a lot of snow here in Erie, but this is unprecedented, the amount we got," Ms Dahlkemper said.
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