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

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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:


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2019-01-31 21:27:00

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