Some polar vortex areas getting as cold as Mars

Posted February 01, 2019

The blast of arctic cold that hit the U.S. Midwest this week will linger on Thursday, but it's pushing east and losing much of its bite. He was not wearing a hat or gloves and wasn't dressed for below-zero temperatures.

The frightful cold, expected to bottom out with record lows Thursday morning, was blamed for several deaths across the region, and fears for the most vulnerable populations soared as night fell.

The North Polar Vortex is an extremely cold counterclockwise spinning mass of air which usually sits over the Arctic Sea, but as global warming has melted Arctic Sea ice and warming air makes its way into the Earth's northernmost regions, the vortex is disrupted, causing the cold air to split up and some of it to move further south.

It pushed eastward and states including Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania experienced bitterly cold temperatures.

The city's lowest temperature on a January 30, minus 15 degrees, happened back in 1966, the weather service said.

United States media have attributed at least five deaths since the weekend to the freezing conditions and a major snowstorm that preceded the blast of Arctic air now gripping the region. Governors in Wisconsin and MI declared states of emergency and ordered all state government offices closed; some state agencies in IL were closed Wednesday, as well. Several other locations in Minnesota and North Dakota plunged to risky lows, including Warren, Minnesota (minus-47); Lisbon, North Dakota (minus-46); and Park Rapids, Minnesota (minus-42).

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Dozens of records could be broken this week as the temperatures fall.

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.

Temperatures at this range can cause frostbite on exposed skin in just a few minutes.

The NWS has warned people in affected areas to cover their mouths when outside to protect their lungs from the "severely cold air".

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

A University of Iowa student was found dead outside a building at the campus early on Wednesday.

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The weather service warned drivers to allow for extra travel time and "possibly hazardous travel" because of accumulating snow and single-digit temperatures impeding road treatment tactics.

"In the attractive Midwest, windchill temperatures are reaching minus 60 degrees, the coldest ever recorded".

In Illinois, at least 144 people visited hospital emergency rooms for cold-related injuries over two days.

The US Postal Service - known for its commitment to bringing the mail whatever the weather - suspended deliveries in parts of Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Iowa, the Dakotas and Nebraska. Mail service won't be restored in MI until February 1, officials said.

"By Friday, temperatures in the Upper Midwest will finally rebound to well above zero", the NWS says, "with high temperatures making it into the teens and low 20s".

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. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV canceled a shift on Thursday at two of its plants.

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It has been more than 20 years since a similar Arctic blast covered a swath of the Midwest and Northeast, according to the weather service.