TODAY   |  January 28, 2014

Brutal cold snap hits Midwest

Sub-zero temperatures are keeping millions across the Midwest bundled up. Many areas won’t see the mercury go above zero, and schools are closed from Minnesota to Pittsburgh. NBC’s John Yang reports.

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>> is not much better in the midwest. another day of unbearable cold. and many areas will not see the mercury go above zero. john yang in wisconsin this morning, good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning, savannah. preparing for a big annual snow sculpting competition. no worries about this stuff melting right now. it is 19 below zero right now. this is the 17th day in this region of subzero temperatures. that's double the average for a winter. and that's sending heating bills soaring. the average natural gas heating bill across the country expected to be 10% higher than last year in the northeast, 17% higher than last year for propane users in the midwest, 23% more to heat their homes this year than last year. and schools are closed from minnesota to pittsburgh and that includes the university of michigan closed for weather for the first time since 1978 . savannah?

>> thank you so much. and we want to turn to al with the rest of the forecast.

>> that's right, guys. let's take a look currently. the hudson river . check this out. this is a chopper, our wnbc chopper. we are looking at basically ice and they are going to start breaking this stuff up. these are the piers along the hudson in downtown manhattan . it's going to get worse as we show you chopper 4 and you can see the skyline right now. bitter cold currently around much of the northern part of the country. in fact, 80 million people affected right now by windchill warnings and advisories. that piece of the polar vortex breaks off. starting to move toward the north, that's good news because this would be the worst of it. 27 below windchill in chicago this morning, 7 below in cincinnati, 14 below in syracuse, even atlanta, feels like 17 below. here we go, we're starting to see the ice starting to accumulate and snow to the north. why is this happening? well, as you look at this southern storm , you can see winter storm warnings, ice storm warnings along the southeastern carolina coast and georgia. we are looking for this brutal arctic air to be coming all the way south. moisture, gulf moisture thanks to a low makes its way up over this. this is kind of shallow. where it's shallow, the cold air's shallow, ice, where it's a little deeper, we get snow. and this is going to be the real big problem here. we are talking about up to 1/2 to 1/4 inch of ice from charleston on into georgia. and that can bring down power lines and big problems. and we're looking at snow, as well. those snowfall amounts in the carolinas all the way into the outer banks up to 9 to 12 inches of snow . guys, the good news is -- we're going to show you in the next ten minutes, there is light at the end of the tunnel . we're going to see a change which will bring warmer weather and moisture to the pacific northwest where they really need it.