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Cold blamed for Wisconsin derailment as temperatures plunge again

Caledonia Fire Department

State officials say the extreme cold caused 19 rail cars carrying coal to derail Sunday in Caledonia, Wis.

A new blast of cold air that hit the Northeast and the Midwest on Sunday won't be as biting as the cold that kicked off January, but it was bad enough to cause the derailment of a coal train in Wisconsin.

As millions of Americans were bracing for another chill after a relatively warm — albeit short — hiatus, Wisconsin officials were investigating cracks in the track near Caledonia, in the southwest part of the state, where 19 cars of a 135-car Union Pacific train heading to Wyoming ran off the rails.


Nobody was injured in the accident, which happened about 7:30 a.m. (8:30 a.m. ET), state Railroad Commissioner Jeff Plale told NBC station WTMJ of Milwaukee. But 5-Mile Road will be closed indefinitely as Union Pacific and state environmental crews clean up the scene, police said.

"In this brutally old weather, sometimes tracks get brittle, and this is what happened here," Plale said.

Although temperatures won't be as cold as during the polar vortex of a few weeks ago, the cold blast is predicted to be "a shock to the system and extremely cold," TODAY's Dylan Dreyer says.

A cold air mass was parked from the Northern Plains to the Upper Mississippi Valley, the Great Lakes, the Ohio Valley and the Northeast — bringing temperatures 10 to 25 degrees below average at times Tuesday through Thursday, The Weather Channel reported.

While snow fell in New England and parts of the Midwest on Saturday, accumulation won't be a debilitating problem to begin the workweek, but temperatures are due to plummet across the widespread region overnight Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.

"Maybe not as cold as that Arctic outbreak we had at the beginning of January, but still, this is significant," said Jen Carfagno, a forecaster for The Weather Channel. "We're looking at our temperatures as cold as they get when it comes to averages for the year."

"We'll certainly feel it," Carfagno said.

While leaving first lady Michelle Obama's birthday bash Saturday night, fashion designer Michael Kors told NBC News that he "went from the hottest room in the world to the coldest night ever."

But, at 25 degrees, Washington certainly wasn't the coldest it's ever been, and even though temperatures are expected drop into the teens in the coming days, the record-breaking lows that kicked off the month will likely remain untouched.

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Chicago also won't be as cold. Temperatures might dip below zero, but they won't descend into the negative teens as they did at the start of January.

And Weather Channel meteorologists said Chicago wouldn't be as gusty, cutting down on the chills that make even short periods of exposure more unbearable.


While forecasters can't be certain, they warn that this latest patch of extreme cold may last through the end of January, as frigid air is pushed once again from Canada.

The Southern states will also see below-average temperatures for January, but will still sit comfortably in the 40- to 60-degree range, forecasters said.

Related:
Bitterly cold weather returning, but don't call it a 'polar vortex,' meteorologists plead

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