As it happenedended1548970035

Polar vortex: 12 dead as US weather system brings record low temperatures approaching -50F

Arctic air blasts across United States as nation's infrastructures is strained and death toll rises

Chris Riotta
New York
Thursday 31 January 2019 22:25

The polar vortex in the US continued inflicting severe conditions across the country on Thursday, with temperatures reaching minus 40F - and a town in Michigan called Hell quite literally freezing over.

Chicago was on track to break the city’s record of -32C (-26F), set more than 30 years ago as the cold snap intensifies.

Some nearby isolated areas could see temperatures as low as -40C (-40F), that would break the Illinois record of minus 38C (-36.4F) set in 1999.

Milwaukee had similar conditions. Minneapolis recorded -32C (-26F) while Sioux Falls, South Dakota, saw -31C (-24F).

Wind chills reportedly made it feel like -45C (-49F) or worse.

The blast of polar air that enveloped much of the Midwest on Wednesday closed schools and businesses and strained infrastructure with some of the lowest temperatures in a generation.

The deep freeze snapped rail lines, cancelled hundreds of flights and strained utilities.

Trains and buses in Chicago operated with few passengers as the hardiest commuters ventured out only after covering nearly every square inch of flesh against the extreme chill, which froze ice crystals on eyelashes and eyebrows in minutes.

Crews in Detroit will need days to repair water mains that burst on 30 January, and other pipes can still burst in persistent subzero temperatures.

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Temperatures are expected to improve later this week and more people are expected to return to work in the nation’s third largest city.

Meanwhile, cities like Chicago reportedly experienced "frost quakes," a phenomenon caused by freezing and expanding water under the ground and causes earthquake-like effects.

See The Independent's live coverage of the polar vortex across the United States on Thursday as it happened below:

Please allow a moment for the liveblog to load


Welcome to The Independent's coverage of the weather in the United States.

Shehab.Khan31 January 2019 12:20

The sub-zero temperatures in the US have resulted in a town in Michigan called Hell freezing over. 

Yes, you read that right. 

Hell has frozen over.

Shehab.Khan31 January 2019 12:51

It is so cold in Chicago, reports claim that train tracks needed to be set on fire to clear the snow and ice

Shehab.Khan31 January 2019 12:55

More than 2,300 flights were canceled and more than 3,500 delayed, most of them out of Chicago's O'Hare International and Midway International airports, according to the flight tracking site

Shehab.Khan31 January 2019 13:04

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

Shehab.Khan31 January 2019 13:15

Meanwhile, conditions in the Midwest have created an astonishing spectacle in the form of a frozen Lake Michigan, pictures of which have a distinctly other-worldly feel to them. You see them here: 

Richard Williams31 January 2019 13:19

The polar vortex sending record-low temperatures across the United States has strained the nation’s infrastructure, suspended the US postal service — along with thousands of flights — and caused a rising death toll.

Chris Riotta31 January 2019 13:59

Though the polar vortex is making for harrowing conditions across the United States, not everything about the system is completely bleak. 

National weather reporter Jonathan Petramala posted this beautiful video landscape of the sun rising over Lake Michigan during the weather phenomenon. 

Chris Riotta31 January 2019 14:15

2020 presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has tweeted the following message about the polar vortex:

“Extreme temperatures. Monster storms. Donald Trump & the GOP might not believe in science, but I do. We need to make fundamental changes to stop climate change – like passing a Green New Deal in Congress – and save our planet.”

The tweet arrives after Donald Trump joked about the cold temperatures in a tweet refuting the scientific validity of global warming.

Chris Riotta31 January 2019 14:32

The National Weather Service is warning over below average temperatures across “the Upper Mississippi Valley, Great Lakes, into parts of the northern Mid-Atlantic.”

Chris Riotta31 January 2019 14:45

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