Polar vortex death toll climbs to 21

Olive Hawkins
February 1, 2019

A deadly arctic deep freeze enveloped the Midwest with record-breaking temperatures on Wednesday, triggering widespread closures of schools and businesses, and prompting the US Postal Service to take the rare step of suspending mail delivery to a wide swath of the region.

One of those polar vortex pieces is responsible for the subzero temperatures across the Midwest this week. In Chicago, temperatures have touched a low of minus 30 degrees Celsius, and the surface of the Chicago River has frozen in parts. It pushed eastward, and states including Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania experienced bitterly cold temperatures. The wind chill dipped to touch minus 51 degrees. Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin implemented emergency measures.

The National Weather Service said temperatures would remain 25 to 45 degrees below average through Thursday, with wind chill values as low as -25 to -55 degrees Fahrenheit (-32 to -48 Celsius).

"This morning is the worst of the worst in terms of the cold", Orrison said. "They are life-threatening conditions and temperatures". It can also permanently damage the body, and severe cases can lead to amputation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One death involved an elderly IL man whose body was found hours after he had fallen trying to get back into his home.

In Illinois, a temperature of -38F (-39C) was recorded and could be the lowest ever temperature the state has ever seen, if confirmed by officials.

Among the dead is University of Iowa student Gerald Belz, who was found dead outside a close distance away from his dorm.

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The dangerously cold water has continued to shatter records across the Midwest.

You might think it's been pretty cold here in the United Kingdom recently, but in parts of America it's been even cooler. "People can't last outside even for minutes".

In a rare move, the U.S. Postal Service suspended mail delivery on January 30 in parts or all of several Midwest states, including Michigan, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and IL. Mail service won't be restored in MI until February 1, officials said.

Even parts of the South, such as the mountains of Kentucky, Tennessee, and upper Georgia, were in the single digits. In Detroit, more than two dozen water mains froze. Utilities appealed to consumers to conserve energy to avoid power outages.

Chicago was hardest hit, with O'Hare International Airport experiencing over 700 cancellations, according to the FlightAware tracking site.

The icy weather is beginning to lose its grip, however, and forecasters say temperatures will rise through the weekend, reaching near 50F (10C) in some parts of the Midwest.

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