Science

Dramatic temperature swings heading to Midwest

Dramatic temperature swings heading to Midwest

A blast of arctic-chilled air from the polar vortex brought unsafe, record-setting cold to a wide swathe of the eastern United States on Tuesday, stretching from the Dakotas through ME, with snow expected as far south as Alabama and Georgia.

It is extremely cold in the Midwestern United States, where forecasters are warning of "life-threatening extreme cold". By nightfall the mercury was hovering at 0F in Chicago, 7F (minus 14C) in Detroit and minus 21f (minus 29C) in Minneapolis.

A Chicago Fire Department boat is seen outside the docks in between the Chicago River and Lake Michigan in Chicago, the United States, on January 30, 2019.

The bitter cold is being carried by the polar vortex, an area of low pressure which spins counterclockwise in the stratospheres over the north and south poles. Even the city's supply of its signature deep-dish pizza was affected: The Lou Malnati's chain announced it would stop taking delivery orders at 8 p.m. on Tuesday.

By the weekend, Chicago was expected to bask in snow-melting highs in the mid-40s to low 50s Fahrenheit, along with other parts of the Midwest, the weather service said.

On Monday, snowplough drivers had trouble keeping up with the snow in Minnesota and Wisconsin, where some areas got as much as 38cm.

According to a news release Wednesday from the Duluth office, "some of the historically favored cold locations in interior northeast Minnesota, and possibly northwest Wisconsin could approach all-time record values". "Hopefully, we'll be able to address as numerous issues as possible over the next week", Mobley said. Schools and colleges have temporarily closed in many parts of the Midwest, and the Postal Service has effectively canceled Wednesday mail delivery in parts of at least 10 states out of concerns for the safety of employees. A weaker jet stream lets the cold air escape south to places like the Upper Midwest, Siberia, and Sweden.

However, relatively balmier weather was on the horizon.

A low of minus 10F (minus 23C) was forecast in Chicago and elsewhere in northern IL on Wednesday. A 70-year-old man was found Wednesday frozen to death outside a neighbor's house in Detroit, where the high temperature barely reached -2 Fahrenheit.

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The freezing weather may have killed a man in Rochester, Minnesota, who was found dead outside his home on Sunday, according to a report by WCCO, a local CBS affiliate.

"The dangerously cold wind chills could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as five minutes", NWS said.

For many across the region, life ground to a halt.

Classes were canceled for Wednesday and Thursday in many cities, including Chicago, home of the nation's third-largest school system, and police warned of the risk of accidents on icy highways.

On Wednesday night, Consumers Energy, one of the main energy providers in MI, sent out an emergency appeal to customers throughout the state to reduce their heat as much as possible to avoid a critical gas shortage.

The Chicago Zoological Society said it would shut Brookfield Zoo for only the fourth time in its 85-year history on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The unincorporated community, which is unsurprisingly subject of meteorological and winter jokes, had temperatures below zero on Wednesday afternoon with wind chills temperatures that were even colder.

Officials in Des Moines, Iowa, opened warming shelters, but also suggested residents could stay warm inside shopping malls.