Saturday, 16 February, 2019

US thaws from Arctic deep freeze as death toll climbs

Dark arrows indicate rotation of the polar vortex in the Arctic light arrows indicate the location of the polar jet stream Chicago set for coldest day ever recorded as polar vortex hits city
Sandy Nunez | 04 February, 2019, 18:40

The deaths recorded in the United States included an elderly IL resident who was found several hours after he fell while trying to get home and a University of Iowa student found behind an academic hall several hours before dawn. With wind chill factored in, temperatures dropped below minus 50 deg C in several states.

You don't have to live in the U.S. Midwest to have heard about the polar vortex, but if you do you've no doubt felt its effects.

The death toll rose from a previous 12 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.

Cable worker Brian Stachovic said he was up an electrical pole for only five minutes on Thursday before his fingers and toes went numb, and he had to go inside to avoid frostbite.

According to a 2010 report from the National Coalition for the Homeless, at least 700 people "experiencing or at risk of homelessness" die each year from hypothermia in the U.S.

If you've been following the news at all, you probably already know what's to blame: the dreaded "polar vortex", which describes a large area of low pressure and cold air that surrounds both poles of the earth.

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Homes and businesses used record amounts of natural gas to fight the cold, according to financial data provider Refinitiv.

In Detroit, General Motors Co suspended operations at 11 MI plants to cut natural gas consumption. Snow and ice created treacherous travel conditions, with 26 road collisions reported within two hours on Thursday in eastern Iowa's Johnson County, emergency communications center chief Tom Jones told the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Thousands of flights were scrapped this week, especially at Chicago's two major airports, which experienced more than 1,500 cancellations a day.

"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.

More than 30 record lows were shattered across the Midwest.

The coldest recorded temperature was minus 56 in Cotton, Minnesota, on Thursday, the weather service said. NASA explains what we're seeing here: The lowest temperatures are shown in purple and blue and range from -40 degrees Fahrenheit (also -40 degrees Celsius) to -10 degrees Fahrenheit (-23 degrees Celsius).

The sudden weather change coming this weekend may be the fastest warm-up on record, meteorologists say. "Here we are going right into spring-like temperatures".