- At least 21 people have died from the extreme weather caused by the polar vortex or accidents related to it, according to Reuters.
- Some were killed by the cold outside their homes, while others were involved in road accidents.
- The polar vortex has brought life-threatening cold and conditions that can give people frostbite in as little as five minutes.
- Authorities are taking extra measures to help the elderly and homeless, as windchill temperatures as low as minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit have been recorded.
The weather system, which stretches from New York to Montana, has brought temperatures lower than those recorded in Antarctica, and officials have warned of getting frostbite from spending as little as five minutes outside.
Since Sunday, there have been 21 deaths reported related to the cold weather. According to Reuters, on Thursday the death toll rose “after at least nine more people in Chicago were reported to have died from cold-related injuries, according to Stathis Poulakidas, a doctor at the city’s John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital.”
Here is a breakdown of the deaths reported so far:
- University of Iowa student Gerald Belz was found on campus Wednesday morning and later died in the hospital, The Associated Press reported. Officials have linked the death to extreme cold.
- An unnamed 70-year-old man was found dead outside his Detroit home Wednesday and may have frozen to death, according to the Detroit Free Press.
- Another unnamed man was found dead outside in Michigan without a hat or gloves. He was a former member of the city council in the town of Ecorse, the Detroit Free Press reported.
- An 82-year-old man died after he was found with hypothermia outside of his home in Illinois, NBC News affiliate Week reported.
- 55-year-old Charley Lampley was found frozen in a garage near his home in Wisconsin on Tuesday. People magazine said he was shoveling snow outside his home before he was found.
- A 75-year-old man died in suburban Chicago on Monday when he was hit by a snowplow, police said. The man was not named.
- A man and a woman died on Monday when their SUV struck another vehicle on a snow-covered road in Indiana, the AP reported, naming them as 22-year-old Ethan Kiser and 21-year-old Shawna Kiser.
- A 59-year-old man was found dead outside his home in Indiana on Tuesday. The country coroner said it appeared the man fell outside his home, NBC News reported.
- Another unnamed person was killed by extreme windchill in Tazewell County, Illinois, according to emergency officials cited by NBC.
- A 9-year-old boy died on Sunday in Iowa when the vehicle he was travelling in lost traction on an icy road and went into a ditch, NBC said.
- A 50-year-old woman died on Monday when a semitrailer rear-ended the car she was in. CNN reported that the state patrol said the roads were icy at the time.
- A 31-year-old man died in Iowa on Monday when his car crashed into a telephone pole. Officials said he was driving too fast for the conditions, CNN reported.
Warnings as temperatures break records
Twenty million people in the continental US are expected to experience temperatures of minus 18 degrees Fahrenheit or lower by the end of the week, the BBC reported.
The temperatures are setting records: What is being called a “possible new state record” in Illinois by the National Weather Service – minus 38 degrees – was recorded in Mount Carroll on Thursday morning. The number will be confirmed in the following weeks.
And it feels even colder in many places when windchill is taken into account. Windchill figures are lower than actual temperature to reflect the way moving air strips away heat faster than still air.
The actual temperature in DeKalb, Illinois, at midnight on Tuesday was minus 13 degrees, but the windchill meant it felt like minus 42 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
Windchill temperatures as low as minus 60 degrees have been recorded this week.
The weather service is monitoring whether a new record-low temperature will be recorded in Chicago.
Will #Rockford tie or break all-time record low of -27° from Jan 10, 1982 tonight/Thursday morning? RFD is at -19° as of the 7pm hour. Our forecast low at RFD is -32°. BONUS choice is for record to be tied/broken before 12am tonight & that record to be broken Thu. AM. #ilwx
— NWS Chicago (@NWSChicago) January 31, 2019
The weather service and other services have been advising the public on ways to stay safe, including wearing extra layers to prevent frostbite.
Authorities are warning of the life-threatening temperatures.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said on Tuesday that the vortex had brought “life-threatening conditions and temperatures.”
Weather service forecaster Jim Hayes warned that the conditions could create a “very dangerous situation.”
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a statement on Tuesday that the storm “poses a serious threat to the wellbeing of people around the state.”
Thousands of flights have been canceled, schools have closed, and Postal Service deliveries have been suspended in light of the conditions.
Cities are looking to protect people who are particularly vulnerable to the cold, such as seniors and the homeless. Charities and government officials opened shelters to capacity and have taken measures like converting buses into warming centres that can move around cities, the AP reported.
Temperatures across the US are expected to start to ease later on Thursday, but some places could still get colder and set new records.
- Read more coverage of the polar vortex:
- Here’s what it’s like in one of the coldest cities in the US, where the windchill is in the -50s
- The Kentucky governor criticised schools for closing down during the polar vortex: ‘We’re getting soft’
- People in Michigan facing brutal cold weather have been asked to turn down the heat at the worst possible time
- The frigid ‘polar vortex’ cold snap engulfing the US is so bad it can give people frostbite in 5 minutes
- From frozen lakes to indoor icicles, here are the most dramatic polar vortex photos from around the US that will make you want to stay inside
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