As Polar Vortex Freezes US, Satellite Track It from Space

Polar vortex blasts U.S. Midwest with lethal cold airMore

Polar vortex blasts U.S. Midwest with lethal cold airMore

The polar vortex that locked the US Midwest in sub-zero weather and led to the deaths of at least 21 people will give way to milder, snow-melting temperatures this weekend.

They have deployed troopers across the state to check assigned patrol areas for stranded motorists as temperatures could reach record lows and make travelling extremely unsafe. Warmer-than-normal weather was on the way, but that offered little comfort to vulnerable populations such as the homeless and elderly enduring cold that caused frostbite in minutes and made being outside potentially deadly.

Schools and businesses remained closed in several midwestern states, people were encouraged to stay home, and travellers were stranded by grounded flights and halted trains.

Authorities in MI and Minnesota were also asking residents to turn down their thermostats to conserve natural gas.

According to Amtrak, all Midwest corridor services to and from Chicago are canceled on Thursday. Airport crews worked in 15-minute increments on the tarmac to avoid frostbite. And more than 83 million Americans - about 25% of the United States population - will suffer subzero temperatures at some point between Wednesday and Monday. Before the weekend warms up, more snow will hit parts of Illinois, Indiana and OH, the weather service said. "We've got another 24 hours where the weather will be at unsafe levels", Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer told a news conference.

Temperatures in the Windy City today are reportedly around -14 degrees while parts of the Chicago River have frozen over and could remain below zero from around noon.

Cook County's medical examiner's office said there had been four confirmed cold-related death this week in the Chicago area. Milwaukee's low was minus 25 degrees (minus 31 Celsius), and Minneapolis recorded minus 24 degrees (minus 31 Celsius).

As of Thursday morning, the Weather Service still thought the record could be possible.

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Record low temperatures were also reported in some towns in Iowa and Wisconsin. United Airlines spokesman Charlie Hobart said "everything tends to slow down" during severely cold weather, including manpower, fueling, and equipment. "With more snow on the way, we're not out of the woods yet".

Homeless people have been particularly at risk, with warming shelters set up across cities.

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.

The eighteen-year-old was found unresponsive on campus early Wednesday morning just a short walk from his dorm, according to university officials.

In Minnesota and MI, residents were asked by gas companies to turn down their home thermostats to help handle heating demands.

"This is not over until noon tomorrow". Shifting air currents caused it to slip down through Canada and into the U.S. Midwest this week.

General Motors and Fiat Chrysler suspended or curtailed operations at more than a dozen facilities in MI to conserve natural gas, the companies said.

Most of Canada was under some sort of weather warning - from extreme cold in the Prairies, Quebec and Ontario to heavy snows in Alberta and Nova Scotia. And in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the city of Escanaba was cleared to resume using water after a water main break. During the early Wednesday morning hours, much of the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and IL are locked down with these "feels like" temperatures in the -40s, -50s, and even -60s (Fahrenheit) as winds howl out of the west at up to 25mph.

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