Dangerously cold temps continue across US as 2024 presidential race begins in Iowa

(Reuters) - Much of the United States remained gripped by an Arctic blast on Monday, cutting power to tens of thousands of customers in northern states and Texas and potentially dampening turnout in Iowa, where voters will cast the first ballots for a Republican candidate in November's presidential race.

The dangerously frigid weather is expected to linger throughout the day, hitting the Midwest hardest but also sending snow and freezing rain across the Southern and Mid-Atlantic states, the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS) said in a Monday bulletin.

Temperatures in Iowa are expected to plummet to a life-threatening -35 degrees Fahrenheit (-37 Celsius) on Monday night, when voters assemble at public gatherings called caucuses to select a Republican presidential nominee.

The hazardous conditions prompted Republican candidates to cancel campaign events on Sunday as a blizzard blanketed the state, even while they urged supporters to brave the icy temperatures and turn out to vote.

Monday's extreme weather could keep some voters home, but it is unlikely to change the commanding lead that polls give former President Donald Trump over his chief rivals, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.

Wind chills are forecast to dip as low as -58 degrees Fahrenheit (-50 Celsius) in states including Montana, South Dakota and North Dakota.

FLIGHTS AND POWER DISRUPTED

Thousands of flights within, into, and out of the United States were delayed or canceled on Monday, with Denver International Airport and Chicago O'Hare International Airport experiencing the worst disruptions, according to flight-tracking website FlightAware.com.

Power was restored in many places where the winter storm had knocked it out over the weekend, but as of midday Monday, lights remained out for more than 100,000 customers in Oregon as well as tens of thousands in Texas, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, according to data from PowerOutage.US.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) asked customers to conserve electricity from 6-10 a.m. on Monday due to ongoing freezing temperatures, record-breaking demand and unseasonably low wind, and said similar conditions were expected on Tuesday.

The icy weather froze wells across the United States on Sunday, sending U.S. natural gas output to a preliminary 11-month low while gas demand for heating and power generation skyrocketed.

(Reporting by Julia Harte; Editing by Mark Porter)