Polar vortex causes a record-breaking freeze across the Midwest

Polar vortex causes a record-breaking freeze across the Midwest

An arctic cold snap has sent temperatures plunging across the Midwest, prompting officials to close schools, businesses and state government offices across the region.

Mail deliveries were suspended and people encouraged to stay home in almost a dozen USA states where the mercury plunged into the negative double digits, the worst freeze to grip the region in a generation.

The cold weather goes back to a sudden warming far above the North Pole.

"The system was set to extend from the Dakotas through New England, with Chicago expecting temperatures to plunge as low as -25 degrees Fahrenheit overnight Tuesday into Wednesday", it reported the weather service as saying. Record-breaking cold hit northern IL early Thursday, when the temperature in Rockford dropped to negative 30 degrees (negative 34 Celsius).

The wind chill temperature is more than a catchy forecast term. Boston was at minus 5 degrees F according to the National Weather Service.

Temperatures on Friday afternoon ranged from the teens to the twenties, after cities like Chicago experienced sub-zero temperatures for two days and opened additional warming centers for the homeless.

"We've gone from snow to freezing temperatures, wind chill", Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at a news conference.

Days after the arctic conditions, forecasts say that the region will seemingly swing into another season, with temperatures climbing by as much as 27C.

Ice forms along the shore of Lake Michigan in Chicago.

More than 4,000 flights were cancelled at Chicago airports on Wednesday, including 3,300 at O'Hare International - one of America's busiest.

"The weather is being considered by investigators as a circumstance that may have played a role in the death", East Moline Police Captain Darren Gault said in a statement on Friday. Calling the temperatures "dangerous", Hobart said United was bringing in extra workers and providing heated tents for employees.

The "extreme dry, cold air" she said, can result in severe frostbite, nosebleeds and death due to exposure.

Minneapolis Public Schools officials have canceled classes through Wednesday, when the region is expected to experience frigidly low temperatures not seen in a quarter century.

But as the temperatures abruptly turn warmer, USA emergency officials warn of flooding and utility risks. In Chicago, major attractions closed because of the bitter cold, including the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Art Institute, and the Field Museum.

Homeless shelters were also preparing for the onslaught of cold. They also were filling up in Detroit.

State of emergencies have been declared in Wisconsin, Michigan, and IL, and five people have already died due to the extreme cold.

People in cities that are not used to icy conditions are warned to look out for falling icicles and other hazards, including fresh potholes left by ice and rising riverbanks.

Hawaii native Charles Henry, 54, was staying at a shelter in St. Paul, Minnesota, and said he was grateful to have a place to stay out of the cold.

Wind chills reportedly made it feel like minus 50 (minus 45 Celsius) or worse.

Remnants of a weekend snowstorm continued to plague portions of the northeast-with strong winds and blowing snow reducing visibility on roads.

"Keeping Michiganders safe during this stretch of dangerously cold temperatures is our priority", Whitmer said. It's how much heat is lost from exposed skin while it's windy and cold.

The cold weather was even affecting beer deliveries, with a pair of western Wisconsin distributors saying they would delay or suspend shipments for fear that beer would freeze in their trucks.