A sign shows the current outdoor temperature in Glenview, Ill., Jan. 30, 2019.
Record-breaking blasts of Arctic air caused at least a dozen deaths in the U.S. Midwest as the cold spread eastward on January 31 to the Northeast, leaving behind a trail of school closures, major travel disruptions, and the suspension of U.S. Postal Service deliveries in some areas. Cotton, Minnesota had the lowest national temperature recorded on Thursday at minus 56F (minus 48C) before the weather warmed up, the weather service reported. Customers were connected to other mains to keep water service from being interrupted, Detroit Water and Sewerage spokesman Bryan Peckinpaugh said.
Hell (the one in Michigan) may have frozen over, but the polar vortex is on its way out, with temperatures due to hit a balmy 41 degrees F in Chicago on Saturday.
Snowplows were idled overnight because of the cold in southeastern Minnesota, where temperatures dropped to negative 29 degrees (negative 34 Celsius).
Businesses and schools have shut down for the day due to the cold temperatures, according to Accuweather.
The polar vortex is old news in North Dakota, among the first USA states to feel the frigid cold earlier this week. In New York City, about 200 firefighters battling a blaze in a commercial building took turns getting warm on buses.
Authorities warned that the extreme temperatures were life-threatening, as Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin implemented emergency procedures.
The weather service initially hinted of a possibility that Thursday morning could at least match the 1985 record.
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The blast of polar air also strained infrastructure with some of the lowest temperatures in a generation. And just as expected, travel has been significantly impacted with over 2,300 flights that have been canceled, and over 1,400 of those were at Chicago O'Hare's airport. Milwaukee had similar conditions.
Minneapolis recorded minus 27 degrees (minus 32 Celsius), while Sioux Falls, South Dakota, saw minus 25 degrees (minus 31 Celsius). With winds blowing at 5 to 10 miles per hour, wind chill would have been around minus-65 degrees. Trains and buses in Chicago operated with few passengers. The hardiest commuters ventured out only after covering almost every square inch of flesh to protect against the extreme chill, which froze ice crystals on eyelashes and eyebrows in minutes. The U.S. Postal Service even took the rare step of suspending mail delivery in many places. In another study, scientists found that over the past 37 years, weakened polar vortexes happened more frequently, allowing frigid air to escape the Arctic. 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.
One death involved an elderly IL man whose body was found hours after he had fallen trying to get back into his home.
In Michigan, state and utility officials warned residents that they risked brief interruptions of natural gas service if they did not help reduce energy.
Supplies were strained due to high demand from home heaters and from a fire at a natural gas compressor station in MI, officials said.
In Minneapolis, residents woke up Thursday to another day that started with temperatures in the negative double digits.
In Detroit, where some water mains are nearly 150 years old, city workers were dealing with dozens of breaks, said Palencia Mobley, deputy director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.
Amtrak canceled scores of trains to and from Chicago, one of the nation's busiest rail hubs. Several families who meant to leave for Pennsylvania stood in ticket lines at Chicago's Union Station only to be told all trains were cancelled until Friday.