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Freezing temperatures, tight security in U.S. usher in New Year

US President, Donald Trump
By Prudence Arobani
As the world welcomes 2018, millions in the U.S entered the New Year with freezing temperatures and security-related beef up in most cities.

Weather services said the bitter-cold temperatures, which ushered in the new year in parts of the U.S as record lows hit the Midwest states, dampened the New Year’s Eve celebrations in many cities.

The negative-degrees temperatures made it the second-coldest New Year’s Eve on record, matching 1962, according to AccuWeather.com.

In New York Times Square, temperatures hovered around minus 12 degrees Celsius but the wind chill factor made it feel like minus 18 degrees Celsius, according to the National Weather Service.

Freezing temperatures also swept through the Midwest and Northeast as New York City braces for its coldest New Year’s Eve since the 1960s, the service said.

Wind chills on Sunday fell to zero degrees in New York City, minus 16 degrees in Boston and minus 43 degrees in Watertown, New York.

That made it the second-coldest New Year’s Eve on record, matching 1962, according to weather services.

Multiple low-temperature records were also broken on Sunday with Flint, Michigan, hitting an all-time December record low of minus 17 degrees on Sunday, weather services said.

International Falls, Minnesota, set a record low at minus 36 degrees, and Cotton, Minnesota, broke another record with a whopping low temperature of minus 41 degrees.

With wind chills as low as 35 degrees below zero, skin could freeze in a matter of 10 to 30 minutes if exposed, medical personnel warned.

Revelers from around the world crowded into New York’s Times Square on the bone-chilling Sunday evening to watch the glittering New Year’s Eve ball make its annual descent at midnight to ring in 2018.

The ball drop, a tradition that dated to 1907, three years after New Yorkers started gathering en masse in Times Square, ushered in the new year.

The lighted ball, a geodesic sphere 12 feet in diameter and covered by illuminated crystals, descended 70 feet in the final 60 seconds.

About two million people hoping to see musical acts and other entertainment up close in Times Square passed by heavily armed officers along with dogs trained to detect explosives.

They also went through a magnetometer to check for weapons, have their bags inspected, then repeated all those steps a second time.

Six thousands police personnel were on hand, some heavily armed, others undercover with rooftop snipers, bomb-sniffing dogs and thousands of officers, which the New York Police Department (NYPD) said it hoped for a safe start to 2018.

Police cars, dump trucks filled with sand and cement blocks were again used to close streets starting from Sunday morning while about 125 parking garages in the area were emptied of all cars and sealed, according to NYPD.

“The idea is to have enough of a visual deterrence so people will look at this and say it’s a hard target,” John Miller, the Deputy Commissioner in charge of counter-terrorism said.

New York’s security plan for about one million expected revelers included radiations scanners and bag checks, plus multi-tonne trucks and concrete barriers to guard against a vehicle attack.

There was also a special focus on aerial security, with officers inside about two dozen nearby hotels ready to combat a sniper-style assault, NYPD said.

“What you’re looking for is to do what people expect but also what your adversary might not expect,” Miller said.

Other cities like Houston are also on high-alert with Chicago police saying they were adding specialised teams with a focus on vehicle-style attacks while for the first time, Miami would conduct random security checks at its outdoor events.

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