Brr!: temperatures plunge well below zero in midwest US

Pablo Tucker
January 31, 2019

Roughly 110 million people across the US are facing the most deadly freeze in at least two decades as a polar vortex of extreme cold spins across the country after a powerful snowstorm pounded the Midwest.

Mail deliveries were suspended and people were encouraged to stay home in almost a dozen U.S. states where the mercury plunged into the negative double digits, the worst freeze to grip the region in a generation.

United States media have attributed at least five deaths since the weekend to the freezing conditions and a major snowstorm that preceded the blast of Arctic air now gripping the region.

The phenomenon stemming from a blast of Arctic air caused surreal scenes throughout the region, such as steam rising off the waters of Lake Michigan - the result of extremely cold air passing over warmer water below. The severe weather on Wednesday could even surpass Chicago's coldest recorded temperature of minus-27 degrees.

This outbreak may break some daily records for cold and is likely to be even more brutal than five years ago, especially with added wind chill, said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the private weather firm Weather Underground.

All-time records are in jeopardy this week as the coldest air in a generation descends from the Arctic into the Lower 48.

At Chicago airports, more than 1,300 flights were cancelled as of 6 a.m. Wednesday, according to the city's aviation department.

The US Postal Service has suspended mail delivery Wednesday in North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kanas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and IL.

A bone-chilling polar vertex has plunged the Midwest, stretching from the Dakotas through ME, into a wave of dangerously cold Arctic air.

A wind chill of -25°F (-32°C) can freeze skin within 15 minutes, according to the National Weather Service. "Extreme and risky COLD!" It could be the coldest day ever recorded in Chicago on Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

Including the wind chill factor, parts of the Dakotas, Wisconsin and Minnesota could see life-threatening temperatures as low as 70F below zero on Wednesday, forecasters said. By the weekend, Chicago, which experienced near-record cold of minus 23F (minus 30C) on Wednesday and minus 21F (minus 29C) on Thursday, was expected to bask in snow-melting highs in the mid-40s to low 50s Fahrenheit.

Authorities and health experts warned of frostbite and hypothermia.

With nine weather-related deaths reported so far, the cold was spreading east into New England and the mid-Atlantic states.

Many Midwest cities opened warming shelters.

"Please come back fast, we need you".

Stay warm and safe, everyone. Five city buses were also deployed to serve as mobile warming centers for homeless people, while city police handed out hats, jackets and blankets. That's cold enough to cause frostbite in half an hour.

Heavy snow was forecast in the northern stretches of ME and snow squalls were predicted for other parts of the east coast of the country.

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