TODAY   |  January 06, 2010

Arctic blast cripples country

Jan. 7: While the Northeast prepares for another wave of extreme cold, states across the Midwest dig out from heavy snow as temperatures fall below zero. NBC’s Kevin Tibbles reports from Chicago.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> but let's begin with the arctic chill sending temperatures from cold to colder across much of the nation. nbc's kevin tibbles is in chicago . good morning to you, kevin .

>> reporter: hey, meredith . old man winter is definitely packing a wallop today. a lot of kids are going to be happy because they're going to be getting that early morning phone call . they're going to be having a lot of snow days across the midwest . they're expecting as much as a foot of snow here in the chicago area today. already out at o'hare airport, the major airlines have started canceling flights. as many as 200 flights have been canceled with american and united airlines , and they're actually advising customers that if you want to switch your flight, if you don't want to fly today, you can actually call ahead and get a voucher. they'll let you do that today without any special charge because of the extraordinary snow circumstances. it's not only here in chicago , meredith . in other parts of the midwest , in southern illinois , the mighty mississippi frozen solid, if you can believe that. in nebraska, there's so much snow, they can't even see their way around the intersections there. and the windchills in the plains -- and it's going to get colder here in the chicago area and also parts of the midwest as soon as this snow goes away -- windchills down to as low as minus 50 with blowing winds. so, awful situations there. obviously, you've got to have safety precautions if you're planning on going outside today. then, of course, we get down into the florida region where they've got the citrus crop and the strawberries. millions of dollars worth of produce down there outside, and they're doing their best to keep that from freezing up and losing those crops. so, it's also very cold in that part of the country. and then, of course, at the miami zoo , it's cold there. the orangutans, well, they've brought out blankets and they're actually giving them a special tre treat, hot chocolate for the orangutans at the miami zoo . perhaps they could send a little bit up here to me and my crew up here in chicago , as well, meredith .

>> i was going to say.

>> reporter: and a special message to joe michaels this morning.

>> i was going to say, kevin , if they can give the orangutans, you know, a little hot chocolate , they can certainly bring kevin in from the cold.

>> reporter: for sure!

>> all right, kevin , thank you very much. stay warm. al roker back from a quick