Ice storm: Wind chill to bring Northeast areas to 50F below zero as nine dead, 400,000 without power in Texas

Life-threatening wind chills are expected across parts of the Midwest on Thursday as the bitter cold sweeps into the Northeast over the next 24 hours.

Wind chill temperatures will plummet as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit (F) below zero in New England, the National Weather Service (NWS) warned, the coldest in decades.

Forecasters warned that the subzero conditions could cause frostbite on exposed skin in ten minutes and told residents to limit their time outdoors and wear appropriate clothing.

The Arctic blast comes after a prolonged ice storm has wreaked havoc across a large stretch of the South from Texas to Tennessee this week.

At least nine deaths were reported on treacherously icy roads. Seven people were killed in Texas, one person in Oklahoma and another in Arkansas.

More than 418,000 homes and businesses in Texas were without power early on Thursday, reported PowerOutage, a utility tracking site. Some 66,000 customers were also in the dark in Arkansas, and more than 20,000 in both Mississippi and Tennessee.

The region is expected to begin to thaw out on Thursday, NWS reported, but hazardous travel conditions will continue especially on untreated roads. Downed tree branches, and more power outages are possible before temperatures rebound to 40-50F by Friday.

But the northern Plains and Upper Midwest will not escape as bitterly cold wind chills sweep in from Canada on Thursday, dropping to as low as minus 50F with whiteout conditions possible.

Those freezing temperatures will also grip parts of the Northeast and in particular northern New England, and possible snow squalls and lake-effect snow will make driving treacherous.

“Wind chills into the minus 50s for northern parts of this region could be the coldest felt in decades,” NWS reported.

The coldest temperatures will be on Saturday in the region and even further south in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania will see single digits.

Meanwhile, heavy snowfall is expected to return to the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountains heading into this weekend, dumping up to a foot at the highest elevations.

The Arctic blast comes on annual Groundhog Day, where Punxsutawney Phil forecast another six weeks of winter on Thursday.

However the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration compared Punxsutawney Phil’s forecast to the national weather over the last 10 years and found “on average, Phil has gotten it right 40 per cent of the time”, AP noted.