Unexpectedly cold weather has hit large parts of Asia and North America during the peak holiday travel period, triggering safety warnings and causing traffic chaos.
A storm this week dumped more than 1.65m of snow on Erie, a lakeside town of 100,000 in the north-eastern United States, paralysing the area and forcing the county to declare an emergency.
"This is a crippling snow event," said Mr Zach Sefcovic, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service (NWS) in Cleveland.
"They are no strangers to snow in that part of the state, but this much snow in that short a time is just unprecedented," he said in a telephone interview yesterday, as residents resorted to using bulldozers to clear the chest-high white pile-up.
The snowfall, which was caused by cold Arctic air moving over Lake Erie, broke Pennsylvania's previous two-day record of 1.12m, set back in 1958.
Large swathes of the country were also gripped by freezing weather.
Number of homes without power in England's central and southern regions on Wednesday morning, because of snow and high winds.
Number of homes without power supply in Canada's Nova Scotia province because of high winds linked to the low temperatures.
Brutal sub-zero temperatures were recorded in places like Duluth, Minnesota (minus 37.7 deg C) on Tuesday, and Minot, North Dakota (minus 29 deg C). An area stretching from Montana to Maine was expected to see temperatures below minus 12.2 deg C early yesterday, the NWS said.
A homeless man froze to death at a bus stop in Cincinnati, Ohio, local media said on Wednesday.
In Canada, extreme cold warnings for conditions such as frost bite and hypothermia were issued across the country, as Toronto reported temperatures of minus 15 deg C and Ottawa minus 25 deg C.
The coldest spot in Canada was Armstrong, Ontario, where the mercury plunged to minus 42.8 deg C, according to Environment Canada.
This is a crippling snow event. They are no strangers to snow in that part of the state, but this much snow in that short a time is just unprecedented.
'' MR ZACH SEFCOVIC, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Cleveland in the US, on Erie, Pennsylvania, being covered in 1.65m of snow.
In my memory, I have never seen cold weather that settles for such a long time in such a broad expanse.
'' MR ALEXANDRE PARENT, a meteorologist from Environment Canada, which said that the coldest spot in Canada was Armstrong, Ontario, where the mercury plunged to minus 42.8 deg C.
The temperatures were 10 to 20 degrees below the norm for the season, said Environment Canada meteorologist Alexandre Parent, and the deep cold is forecast to remain until early next month. "In my memory, I have never seen cold weather that settles for such a long time in such a broad expanse," Mr Parent said.
High winds linked to the low temperatures have cut off power supply to almost 160,000 homes in the eastern province of Nova Scotia.
Across the Atlantic, Britain suffered power outages and travel disruptions on Wednesday as icy weather hit large parts of the country. More than 73,000 homes were left without power in central and southern English regions throughout the morning, due to snow and high winds.
London's Stansted Airport, serving predominantly low-cost carriers like Ryanair and easyJet, twice temporarily shut its runway due to "adverse weather conditions". Hundreds of people were forced to spend a night at the airport.
Flights were also cancelled or delayed at Luton Airport - also a hub for budget airlines just north of London - after aircraft needed de-icing.
The latest disruption comes two weeks after hundreds of schools were closed, homes left without power, and airports affected by a previous round of snowfall in Britain.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE