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Frigid conditions across US limiting some MLK Day events

Dangerously cold temperatures on Monday are limiting Martin Luther King Jr. Day events across the country as a winter storm and arctic blast touched down on several parts of the country.

Events ranging from prayer services to parades marking MLK Day have been scheduled, though some towns were forced to alter plans in the wake of freezing temperatures and wind chills.

The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn., said it closed due to icy roads and inclement weather conditions, and it instead held a virtual celebration on Monday morning.

In the Miami Valley region of southwest Ohio, a march for MLK Day was canceled due to extremely cold temperatures, according to WHIOTV in Dayton, Ohio. Other indoor events, including a free soup lunch, an open reading of works inspired by the life of MLK and programs, were reportedly to take place.

An estimated 110 million people were under wind chill advisories or warnings as of Sunday afternoon. The National Weather Service forecasted temperatures will reach 25 to 40 degrees below average from the Northern Rockies to the Plains, middle Mississippi Valley and Ohio Valley.

In Grand Rapids, Mich., organizers postponed a silent march planned to take place downtown Monday due to wind chills that could drop temperatures 20 degrees below zero in the area, Michigan Live reported. Several Michigan schools closed as thousands on Monday were left without power in the Great Lakes State.

Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Mich., canceled its MLK Day events, which included a student group’s reading of excerpts from King’s 1967 speech at a local church and a poetry reading by the Aquinas College Writers Guild and performance by the True Light Baptist Church choir.

Baltimore canceled its MLK Day parade, citing snow accumulation and freezing temperatures across the city. Mayor Brandon Scott (D) said the city is evaluating options to reschedule the event.

At least three cities in Tennessee — Johnson City, Kingsport and Bristol — canceled or postponed celebrations, WJHL reported. WJFL is owned by Nexstar Media Group, which also owns The Hill.

But many celebrations took place, including in Philadelphia, where President Biden joined volunteers at Philabundance, a hunger relief organization based in South Philadelphia. The president spoke with volunteers and helped stuff boxes of food. He volunteered with the organization the last two holidays as well.

Vice President Harris delivered remarks in Colombia, S.C., for the state NAACP’s “King Day at the Dome,” an event that dates to 2000. Harris on Monday warned of the current threats to the freedom of the U.S. and quoted King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, who said “Freedom is never truly won. You earn it and win it in every generation,” per Reuters.

The inclement weather also impacted flights across the nation, with more than 5,000 flights delayed and over 2,100 flights canceled on Monday, according to FlightAware’s live tracker. Many of these disruptions were reported in Midwestern and Western airports, along with some airports in the South, which is now experiencing some wintry weather conditions as a result of the arctic blast.

A surge in travel was expected ahead of the holiday, adding to the chaos brought by the storms.

MLK Day occurs on the third Monday of January each year and has been observed federally since 1986. This year’s holiday fell on King’s actual birthday and also marks the 60th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act and King’s Nobel Peace Prize.

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