Science

Polar vortex: U.S. braces for life-threatening temperatures

Polar vortex: U.S. braces for life-threatening temperatures

Two-thirds of the continental United States will be a frozen ice box Tuesday, as the so-called polar vortex of frigid arctic air spins across the U.S. Midwest, clips the Great Lakes, the Ohio Valley and pushes on into New England. MI said all state offices would remain closed through Thursday.

General Motors Co said late on Wednesday it would temporarily suspend operations at 11 MI plants and its Warren Tech Center after a utility made an emergency appeal to users to conserve natural gas.

In Chicago, temperatures were still dropping after plunging early Wednesday to minus 19 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 28 degrees Celsius), breaking the day's previous record low set in 1966. "And my teeth hurt".

"It's going to be at least a 60-degree swing for Chicago, from minus 20s to upper 40s by Sunday", said David Hamrick, a forecaster with the National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center in College Park Maryland.

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

Amtrak said it had canceled all trains in and out of the city, where Hurley forecast -15F on Wednesday and a record-low -27F on Thursday.

The weather has been blamed for twelve deaths, according to Reuters.

Dozens of records could be broken this week as the temperatures fall. "The more layers, the more you're insulated", he said. "They're snuggled in, warm and toasty".

'That's 40 degrees below normal, ' Hurley said.




In Illinois, Governor J.B. Pritzker said wind chill could drive temperatures to -55 degrees Fahrenheit in northern parts of the state on Tuesday evening, a level that can cause frostbite in a matter of minutes.

Including the wind chill factor, parts of the Dakotas, Wisconsin and Minnesota had temperatures of -70 Fahrenheit (-56.7 Celsius), according to forecasters. After its coldest day, overnight lows will plummet close to the city's all-time record low temperature of minus-27, set on January 20, 1985.

Banks and stores in the region, including multiple branches of Chase and Trader Joe's, closed for business.

The freezing weather has been caused by the polar vortex, a mass of freezing air which usually rotates around the North Pole but has drifted south to the United States.

It might seem counter-intuitive, but the phenomenon is produced by a sudden blast of warm air in the Arctic, and North Americans need to get used to it - the polar vortex has been wandering more often in recent years.

The McLean Police Department shared a staged photo of officers putting a woman dressed in a blue princess gown in pink handcuffs and escorting her into a police vehicle. Rochester police officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Some buses were turned into mobile warming shelters to help the homeless in Chicago.

The cold weather was even affecting beer deliveries, with a pair of western Wisconsin distributors saying they would delay or suspend shipments for fear beer would freeze in their trucks.

As Chicago residents hunker down inside, the weather is having an effect on the city's natural attractions.