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‘Polar pig’ threatens central U.S.

The coldest air in almost 20 years is sweeping over the central U.S. toward the East Coast, threatening to topple temperature records, ignite energy demand and damage Great Plains winter wheat.

Chicago’s high today won’t reach zero Fahrenheit and may just hit that tomorrow, according to the National Weather Service. New York City’s low will fall to 8, Washington, D.C., will see 5 and Dallas’s low will be 19. Orlando, Fla., may drop to freezing. For the East, tomorrow will be even worse.

Winter storms and frigid air add volatility to commodities trading and spot power markets. Natural gas futures in New York have surged 23 percent since Nov. 1 as the coldest start to the U.S. heating season in 13 years boosted fuel demand. Last week, as snow and cold gripped the nation, spot power for New York City jumped more than 11-fold in one hour, while wheat climbed the most since mid-October. This week, cities from Minneapolis to Pittsburgh may have record-low highs.

“It definitely looks like one heck of a ‘polar pig’ shot,” Kyle Cooper, director of research with IAF Advisors in Houston, said in a Friday telephone interview, using a term for a bulge of cold air out of Canada. “Models show it as quite intense and dropping down pretty far south.”

Hard-freeze warnings and watches, which are alerts for farmers, stretch from Texas to central Florida. Mike Musher, a meteorologist with the U.S. Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Md., said 90 percent of the contiguous U.S. will be at or below the freezing mark today.

“Everybody’s energy bills will be going up,” Musher said. “I am sure there are going to be multiple records broken across a large part of the country.”

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90 percent of the contiguous U.S. will be at or below the freezing mark today....wow...how often does that happen? And I hope we dont run out of natural gas here in NH, we may have to fire up the emergency jet fuel generators like we did this summer.

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