The deadly arctic deep freeze wreaking havoc across the United States has left at least seven people dead with record-breaking low temperatures halting postal services in the Midwest and cancelling more than 2,500 flights. Two people died in Detroit, Michigan after temperatures started plummeting late Tuesday as forecasters issued grave warnings that one of the coldest spells
The deadly arctic deep freeze wreaking havoc across the United States has left at least seven people dead with record-breaking low temperatures halting postal services in the Midwest and cancelling more than 2,500 flights.
Two people died in Detroit, Michigan after temperatures started plummeting late Tuesday as forecasters issued grave warnings that one of the coldest spells in history would be life-threatening.
Police found a man’s body across the street from his home in the Detroit area on Wednesday. He was not wearing a hat or gloves and wasn’t dressed for below-zero temperatures. A 70-year-old man was also found dead in Detroit in front of a neighbor’s home on Wednesday.
The polar vortex in the Midwest came on the heels of major Winter Storm Jayden that dumped up to a foot of snow on the region over the weekend and was to blame for at least five deaths. A 55-year-old man froze to death in his Milwaukee garage after he collapsed shoveling snow, a man was fatally struck by a snow plow in Chicago, a nine-year-old died in an Iowa pile up and a young couple were killed when their SUV struck another on a snowy road in northern Indiana.
Officials have warned that the freezing temperatures will only become more life-threatening overnight on Wednesday. Forecasters advised against breathing deeply or talking while outside and warned that frostbite and hypothermia issues could occur within seconds.
Temperatures plunged to as low as minus 42F in Park Rapids, Minnesota, minus 31F in Fargo, North Dakota and minus 27F in Minneapolis. In Chicago, temperatures were still dropping after plunging early Wednesday to minus 19F, breaking the day’s previous record low set in 1966. Temperatures are expected drop as low as negative 28 degrees in Chicago as the day progresses. Wind chills in northern Illinois made it feel as cold as negative 57F.
In comparison, temperatures in parts of the Midwest were lower Wednesday than in Antarctica, where the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station hit negative 25F.
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The deadly arctic deep freeze wreaking havoc across the United States has left at least seven people dead. Record-breaking low temperatures causes ice to cover the Chicago River on Wednesday
Firefighters at the scene of a house fire on Wednesday in St Paul, Minnesota as temperatures plunged across the Midwest
Ice flows down the Allegheny River toward the Ohio River in Pittsburgh on Wednesday as dangerously low wind chills closed many area schools and government offices
A satellite image of the continental United States shows the extreme cold weather phenomenon called the polar vortex over the U.S. Midwest and Great Lakes regions on Wednesday afternoon
The extreme weather conditions triggered widespread closures of hundreds of schools and businesses from North Dakota to Pennsylvania.
Amtrak also axed all trains into and out of Chicago on Wednesday and most services to or from Chicago on Thursday. Crews had to set rail tracks in fire to keeps trains moving smoothly on Tuesday.
More than 2,500 flights were canceled early Wednesday, largely out of Chicago O’Hare and Chicago Midway international airports, according to flight tracking site FlightAware.
The U.S. Postal Service also took the rare step of suspending mail delivery to parts of Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, the Dakotas and Nebraska on Wednesday because of the dangerous Arctic blast.
Sub-zero temperatures already blanketing parts of Canada began sweeping across the Midwest and towards the East Coast on Tuesday evening. The frigid winds were bound for the East Coast later on Wednesday into Thursday.
The National Weather Service forecast for Wednesday night predicted temperatures in Chicago as low as minus 28, with wind chills to minus 50. Detroit’s outlook was for Wednesday overnight lows around minus 15, with wind chills dropping to minus 40.
Governors in Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan have all declared emergencies as the worst of the cold threatened on Wednesday.
‘We need everyone to do your part and make sure you and your families are prepared,’ said Illinois Governor JB Pritzker.
The bitter cold is the result of a split in the polar vortex that allowed temperatures to plunge much further south in North America than normal.
‘These are actually a public health risk and you need to treat it appropriately,’ Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Tuesday. ‘They are life-threatening conditions and temperatures.’
The James Versluis breaks ice on the frozen Chicago River on Wednesday in Chicago
People walk along Lake Michigan’s frozen shoreline as temperatures dropped to -20 degrees F on Wednesday in Chicago
Ice and snow builds up along Lake Michigan in Chicago on Wednesday as the Midwest is gripped by one of the coldest spells in history
Ice forms along the shore of Lake Michigan before sunrise on Wednesday as record-breaking temperatures hit
Ice and snow builds up along Lake Michigan in Chicago as temperatures plunged to record lows on Wednesday
Ice is seen on the side of the Great Falls National Historic Park as a couple takes in the sights during a frigid winter day in Paterson, N.J. on Wednesday
Drivers navigate their way through downtown St. Joseph, Michigan on Wednesday as temperatures reached minus 40F
A warning sign is covered by ice at Clark Square park in Evanston, Illinois as a deadly arctic deep freeze enveloped the Midwest
A firefighter walks past an ice-encrusted home after an early morning house fire on Wednesday in St. Paul, Minnesota
Ice floats down the Missouri River in Omaha, Nebraska on Wednesday where wind chill warnings were issued
Officials in large Midwestern cities including Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago and Detroit were desperately trying to get the homeless off the streets.
Minneapolis charitable groups that operate warming places and shelters expanded hours and capacity, and ambulance crews handled all outside calls as being potentially life-threatening, according to Hennepin County Emergency Management Director Eric Waage.
MetroTransit said it wouldn’t remove people from buses if they were riding them simply to stay warm, and weren’t being disruptive.
Emanuel said Chicago was turning five buses into makeshift warming centers moving around the city, some with nurses aboard, to encourage the homeless to come in from the cold. About 160 warming centers were opened in the city.
‘We’re bringing the warming shelters to them, so they can stay near all of their stuff and still warm up,’ said Cristina Villarreal, spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Family and Support Services.
Shelters, churches and city departments in Detroit worked together to help get vulnerable people out of the cold, offering the message to those who refused help that ‘you’re going to freeze or lose a limb,’ said Terra DeFoe, a senior adviser to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.
Nineteen-year-old Deontai Jordan and dozens of others found refuge from the cold in the basement of a church in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
‘You come here, you can take a nap, you can snack, you can use the bathroom, you might even be able to shower,’ he said. ‘And then they’re feeding you well. Not to mention they give out clothes, they give out shoes, they give out socks.’
Hundreds of public schools and several large universities from North Dakota to Pennsylvania canceled classes on Tuesday and Wednesday. Closing schools for an extended stretch isn’t an easy decision, even though most school districts build potential makeup days into their schedules, said Josh Collins, spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Education.
‘Many students, they might have two working parents, so staying home might mean they’re not supervised,’ he said. ‘For some low-income students, the lunch they receive at school might be their most nutritious meal of the day.’
American Indian tribes in the Upper Midwest were doing what they could to help members in need with heating supplies. Many people on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in the Dakotas live in housing that’s decades old and in disrepair, or in emergency government housing left over from southern disasters such as hurricanes.
‘They aren’t made for this (northern) country. The cold just goes right through them,’ said Elliott Ward, the tribe’s emergency response manager.
The extreme cold was ‘a scary situation’ for the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, said Chris Fairbanks, manager of the northern Minnesota tribe’s energy assistance program.
‘We have many, many calls coming in. We’re just swamped trying to get everybody what they need,’ she said.
The cold was even shutting down typical outdoor activities. A ski hill in the Minneapolis area said it would close through Wednesday. So did an ice castle attraction.
The cold weather was even affecting beer deliveries, with a pair of western Wisconsin distributors saying they would delay or suspend shipments for fear that beer would freeze in their trucks.
The unusually frigid weather is attributed to a sudden warming far above the North Pole. A blast of warm air from misplaced Moroccan heat last month made the normally super chilly air temperatures above the North Pole rapidly increase.
Nichole Mazola, 30, walks south on Sassafras Street near West 16th Street in Erie, Pa on Wednesday
First responders evacuate a person, found in sub-freezing temperatures, on the banks of Carter Lake, in Omaha, Nebraska on Wednesday
A man tosses hot water into the freezing cold air by Lake Michigan in Chicago on Wednesday
The National Weather service says the temperature in Chicago (pictured is the Chicago River) dropped early Wednesday to minus 19 degrees, which breaks the previous record low for the day that was set in 1966
The frozen Arctic winds brought record-low temperatures across much of the Midwest on Wednesday. Pictured above is Lake Michigan in Chicago on Wednesday
Ice covers the Chicago River on Wednesday as the city copes with record-setting low temperatures
A man moves his luggage through the snow covered streets in Buffalo, New York on Wednesday
Pedestrians bundle up in sub-freezing temperatures on Wednesday on the University of Nebraska-Omaha campus
That split the polar vortex into pieces, which then started to wander, said Judah Cohen, a winter storm expert for Atmospheric Environmental Research.
One of those polar vortex pieces is responsible for the subzero temperatures across the Midwest this week.
Minnesota’s Xcel Energy reported that equipment failures on power poles has led to outages throughout the Twin Cities. The outages started around 5.40pm and more than 3,000 people were still without power at 11pm Tuesday evening, according to CBS Minnesota.
It’s so cold in Minnesota they can’t deliver beer without it FREEZING in trucks
The deadly arctic deep freeze has prompted beer distributors to halt deliveries of beer in Minnesota.
Distributors have stopped delivering in the Twin Cities, down south and out west until the weather improves.
It comes after kegged beer froze while out for delivery on Tuesday, and temperatures fell as low as negative 26 degrees Fahrenheit, with a wind chill of 53 below zero, in Minneapolis.
Beer can freeze at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on its alcohol content, and temperatures across the Midwest are currently much lower than that.
The National Weather Service (NWS) Twin Cities reported that the area is experiencing the coldest temperatures since 1996.
‘These are VERY DANGEROUS conditions and can lead to frostbite on exposed skin in as little as five minutes where wind chill values are below -50,’ the NWS tweeted. ‘Best thing you can do is limit your time outside.’
A wind chill of minus 25 can freeze skin within 15 minutes, according to the service.
The NWS have even warned that people should avoid taking deep breaths and talking outside to ensure lungs are protected from the severely cold air.
Temperatures in almost a dozen states stretching more than 1,200 miles from the Dakotas to Ohio were forecast to be the coldest in a generation, if not on record.
‘One of the coldest arctic air mass intrusions in recent memory is surging south into the Upper Midwest before spreading across much of the eastern two-thirds of the country,’ the NWS said.
‘Expect frigid temperatures, bitterly cold and life-threatening wind chills, likely leading to widespread record lows and low maximum temperatures from the Upper Midwest to the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley.’
The NWS forecast temperatures between -10 to -40 degrees Fahrenheit by Wednesday across the Midwest, with wind chills making it seem as cold as -65 degrees Fahrenheit in one area of Minnesota.
In the northeastern and southern US, snow was falling. A cold emergency was declared in Washington, DC, with additional services put on for the homeless.
Drifting snow obscures a road near Mount Joy in Lancaster County, Pa. on Wednesday
City crews clear sidewalks in empty downtown St. Joseph, Michigan after a winter storm brought several inches of snow and subzero temperatures to the area
Dozens of cars were involved in a chain-reaction crash on a central Pennsylvania highway after a snow squall caused whiteout conditions on Wednesday
About 30 cars were involved in the crash on Route 222 near Wyomissing, Pa. and numerous ambulances were on the scene
Pictured above is a view of Lake Michigan from Kenosha, Wisconsin on Wednesday as a large swath of the Midwest is experiencing some of the worst cold weather conditions in decades
Pigeons huddle together in the snow during a winter storm in Buffalo, New York on Wednesday
Geese huddle in the waters as the sun rises in the harbor in Port Washington, Wisconsin on Wednesday morning
A lone pedestrian crosses the Chicago River early Wednesday as a deadly arctic deep freeze enveloped the Midwest with record-breaking temperatures
In Atlanta, some 300 flights were canceled Tuesday.
Scientists say climate change is causing more extreme weather, and one theory for polar vortex chills is that arctic air currents usually trapped around the North Pole are weakened and dislodged by a warming climate.
WHAT IS THE POLAR VORTEX?
The polar vortex is an atmospheric circulation pattern that sits high above the poles, in a layer of the atmosphere called the stratosphere.
This structure can weaken as a result of abnormal warming in the poles, causing it to split off into smaller ‘sister vortices’ that may travel outside of their typical range.
The split higher up in the atmosphere could eventually cause a similar phenomenon to ‘drip’ down to the troposphere – the layer of the atmosphere closest to the surface, where most of our weather takes place.
A split in the polar vortex can give rise to both sudden and delayed effects, much of which involves declining temperatures and extreme winter weather in the Eastern US along with Northern and Western Europe.
President Donald Trump used the occasion to again voice skepticism about climate change, tweeting: ‘What the hell is going on with Global Waming? (sic) Please come back fast, we need you!’
But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which operates NWS, tweeted: ‘Winter storms don’t prove that global warming isn’t happening.’
The NOAA also linked to a 2015 explanatory article in their tweet.
In New York City, forecasters are expecting temperatures to drop to near 5 degrees on Thursday morning. The wind chill then will be between -10 and -20.
The MTA says they will more than likely activate warming devices throughout their system to keep switches warm on all Long Island Rail Road and Metro North Railroad lines.
LIRR stations will also keep waiting rooms open 24 hours a day Wednesday through Saturday, according to CBS.
In New Jersey, Gov Phil Murphy is warning residents to plan for icy roads and potential blackouts.
Forecasters in western New York are warning of blizzard-like conditions over the next few days with up to two feet of snow, plummeting temperatures and wind chills that can cause frostbite in minutes.
In advance of the Great Lakes-fed storm, authorities closed schools in Buffalo and surrounding districts for Wednesday and Thursday and the state announced a ban on tractor-trailers and buses from the New York State Thruway.
The ban between Rochester and the Pennsylvania border took effect at 8pm Tuesday.
Drifting bands of lake-effect snow are expected to drop one to two feet by the storm’s end. The hard-to-predict bands can bury some areas, even as the sun shines a short distance away.
A Merl’s Towing Service truck pulls a semi-trailer truck out of the snow along M-6 near exit 1 near Grandville, Michigan
Dashcam footage from a trucker taken outside Grand Rapids, Michigan gave a snapshot of hair-raising driving conditions. ‘I about just got caught in a giant wreck; cars are into other pickups, there’s people hurt. I gotta let you go.’ Jason Coffelt said as his truck was forced off the highway
A ride sharing car waits for a passenger as a woman pushes a stroller during winter squall in Lower Manhattan on Wednesday
A sudden snowstorm in New York on Wednesday afternoon had pedestrians shielding themselves on the streets
Snow falls as a man inspects an overturned pickup truck in Manor Township, Pennsylvania on Tuesday
Rescue crews use a rope to safely assist an emergency medical technician as he descends down the embankment along Interstate 80 near Mifflinville, Pa. to assess the driver of a semitrailer who crashed during a snowstorm
A person sleeps at the Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky in Covington, Kentucky on Wednesday
People sleep in tents near a wooded area adjacent to the Dan Ryan Expressway in Chicago on Tuesday. Officials throughout the region were focused on protecting vulnerable people from the cold, including the homeless, seniors and those living in substandard housing