NEW YORK/BOSTON • Much of the United States' east coast woke up to brutally cold and dangerous temperatures as the region recovers from a powerful blizzard that unleashed heavy snows and strong winds.
From northern Florida up through New York City into New England, tens of millions of people braced themselves yesterday for wind chill and freeze warnings throughout the day.
Temperatures in some parts to the north were expected to be minus 40 deg C, while in parts of the south, temperatures were forecast to remain below average.
"It can be very dangerous," said Mr Dan Pydynowski, a meteorologist with private forecasting service AccuWeather. "Any kind of exposed skin can freeze in a couple of minutes."
The cold snap comes as workers clear snow and ice from roadways after a blizzard clobbered the region last Thursday and Friday, forcing hundreds of schools to close, major airports to shut down because of white-out conditions and several commuter rail services to suspend or reduce service.
"The dangers are real," South Carolina city officials warned in a Twitter message. "Huge patches of ice all over the city. Stay at home."
It's 'raining iguanas' in Florida
FLORIDA • On Thursday morning, Frank Cerabino, a columnist for the Palm Beach Post, woke up to 4 deg C weather and was greeted by a "frozen iguana" lounging by his pool in Boca Raton, Florida.
He responded, as many people probably would, by sharing a photo on social media. Then he pondered, "What do you do?" he told the New York Times.
One of the strongest winter storms to hit the US east coast in modern history has pummelled cities with snow and sleet, forcing schools and businesses to close while grounding thousands of flights. And in South Florida, it is "raining iguanas".
Green iguanas, like all reptiles, are cold-blooded animals so when the temperature falls to a certain level, iguanas become immobile, said Ms Kristen Sommers of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Under 10 deg C, they become sluggish. Under 4 deg C, their blood stops moving as much, Ms Sommers said. They like to sit in trees, and "it's become cold enough that they fall out", she said.
This is not a new phenomenon - there were similar reports in 2008 and 2010 - though it is not typical. But what should one do with a fallen iguana?
CBS12 News reporter Maxine Bentzel suggested that "iguanas have a good chance of thawing out if you move them into the sun". But the experts would prefer people did not.
Ms Sommers said the reptiles could become frightened as they warm. "Like any wild animal, it will try to defend itself," she said.
In South Florida, the cooler temperatures also affect sea turtles, manatees and other creatures that hang out in trees.
"Bats sometimes will fall out of the roost of trees when we have a pretty cold snap," Ms Sommers said, adding that while she's heard of falling iguanas on social media, the agency has not received any reports.
There were also noticeably fewer tourists last Friday afternoon in New York City's Times Square, which is usually thronged with visitors. Mr Arjun Shah, a 22-year-old Briton, flew into New York City just 24 hours before the blizzard struck. "Oh it's so bad! It's not this bad in London," Mr Shah said, shivering while taking a break from snapping photos of Times Square.
In Washington, bundled-up tourists ventured onto the frozen Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial before being shooed away by a National Park Service ranger.
Commuters riding railways serving New York and Boston's suburbs endured extensive delays as crews worked to repair frozen equipment and clear snow-covered tracks.
The region's first snowstorm of the year featured gusts of more than 113kmh, dumping 56cm of snow in parts of Maine and 43cm in parts of Massachusetts, before ending last Friday, the National Weather Service said.
The storm was powered by a rapid drop in barometric pressure that some weather forecasters called a bombogenesis, or a "bomb cyclone". The cold and snowy weather has been blamed for at least 18 deaths in the past few days, including four in North Carolina traffic accidents and three in Texas.
Cities from Houston to Boston have stepped up efforts to get the homeless to shelters. The authorities said three homeless people in Texas died from exposure to the cold.
Canada's largest city, Toronto, scrambled to find emergency shelter for the homeless as temperatures dropped to record lows after the sweeping storm knocked out power to tens of thousands in eastern provinces and destroyed coastal roads.
Nearly 500 members of the US National Guard were mobilised to assist with the emergency response along the east coast, including 200 in New York state, the authorities said.
Smile for the Big Chill - the frozen water fountain at Bryant Park in New York is the perfect setting for a selfie despite the cold. The National Weather Service said on Friday that very cold temperatures and wind chills will follow for much of the eastern third of the United States through the weekend. A cold wave gripping a large section of the US has already been blamed for a dozen deaths.