See the Chicago River Freeze and 'Smoke' Amid Frigid Winter Weather

Jo Lloyd
February 1, 2019

More than 250 million Americans have now experienced the blast of Arctic air that brought record-breaking cold to parts of the Midwest this week.

Icy conditions, brutal winds, and temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit rocked the Midwest.

In Illinois, temperatures could rise by 80 degrees within days.

The painfully cold weather system that put much of the Midwest into a historic deep freeze is expected to ease Thursday, though temperatures could still tumble to record lows in some places before the region begins to thaw out.

The bitter cold was caused by the displacement of the polar vortex, a stream of air that normally spins around the stratosphere over the North Pole but whose current was disrupted.

Norris Camp, in northwest Minnesota, was the coldest location in the United States on Wednesday after temperatures there dropped to minus-48 degrees, measured by an official with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Boston was at minus 5 Fahrenheit (minus 15 Celsius), according to the National Weather Service.

In all, some 61,000 people lost power throughout the cold streak, ComEd officials said Wednesday night.

The polar vortex is old news in North Dakota, among the first USA states to feel the frigid cold earlier this week.

A state of emergency has been declared in the Midwestern states of Wisconsin, Michigan and IL. Utqiagvik, formerly known as Barrow, will drop to around minus-20 - 10 degrees warmer than parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and IL will be at the same time.

Minnesota residents cranking up gas heat to survive the constant subzero temperatures there forced Xcel Energy to ask that all 460,000 of its customers lower their thermostats to 63 degrees to conserve natural gas, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

Meteorologists added that frostbite could be possible within just 10 minutes due to the intense cold. "Areas most prone to frostbite are uncovered skin and the extremities, such as hands and feet".

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that cold weather is responsible for the majority of weather-related fatalities.

At least eight deaths were linked to the system, including an elderly IL man who was found several hours after he fell trying to get into his home and a University of Iowa student found behind an academic hall several hours before dawn.

A University of Iowa student was found dead outside his dorm Wednesday morning. "Past record-cold waves have not dissipated this quickly". The U.S. Postal Service canceled mail service in parts of 11 states Wednesday. Mail service won't be restored in MI until February 1, officials said. Experts say life-threatening conditions will continue Thursday.

Videos this week showed boiling water freezing as it was tossed in the air in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and transit workers in Chicago setting fire to train tracks to keep them from locking up.

Even parts of the South, such as the mountains of Kentucky, Tennessee and upper Georgia, will be in the single digits, the weather service said.

The weather caused hundreds of traffic accidents, including a chain-reaction collision of about two dozen cars in Grand Rapids, Michigan, during a white-out on January 30, local media reported. The cold reached record lows Thursday morning, and so far has been responsible for the deaths of at least 12 people.

In Detroit, General Motors Co suspended operations at 11 MI plants and its Warren Tech Center after a utility made an emergency appeal to users to conserve natural gas after extreme cold and a fire at a compressor station.

Two of Wisconsin's largest school districts cancelled classes again Thursday, when morning temperatures hovered around negative 20 degrees (negative 29 Celsius).

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