A broad swath of the US Midwest experienced a deep freeze during last week with historic low temperatures impacting daily routines.
The Arctic blast forced the cancellation of flights, stopped mail delivery in several states, caused power outages and closed businesses, restaurants, schools and government offices with temperatures as low as -37°C.
Catholic schools, in the middle of Catholic Schools Week, were closed for days in several dioceses, as were several diocesan offices in Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin.
The winter blast was to blame for at least 12 deaths.
“In many ways it’s a humanitarian crisis here with the severity of weather,” said Msgr Michael Boland, CEO of Catholic Charities of the Chicago Archdiocese.
He said the agency has made sure all its locations are open to the homeless. It also opened warming centres and its mobile outreach in the city has made sure that people were brought to a shelter or received needed emergency supplies.
The outreach also has delivered coats, gloves and hats to those who need them.