Ninety million people – a third of the US – have seen temperatures of -17C (0F) or below. Some 250 million Americans overall have experienced the “polar vortex” conditions.
The polar vortex mass of freezing air which usually hovers around the Arctic has created some amazing conditions in the U.S.
Hospitals have been treating patients reporting frostbite as parts of the country ground to a halt. And at least 21 people have died so far in the worst Arctic cyclone or polar vortex in a generation.
A hospital in Chicago has already treated 50 patients for frostbite, and some may end up losing a limb. Half of those patients were homeless individuals , while others had jobs that required them to be outdoors.
Some people were found dead a short walk from their homes:
- A Michigan man who froze to death in his neighborhood had been “inadequately dressed for the weather”, officials said
- In a wind chill of -46C (-51F) an 18-year-old student was found unresponsive a short walk from his dorm on Wednesday and later died in a hospital
- On Tuesday, a man froze to death in a garage in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, having “apparently collapsed after shoveling snow”, according to a medical examiner.
Dangerous roads have also been a factor in the deaths. A man was fatally struck by a snow plough near Chicago on Monday and in northern Indiana, a 22-year-old police officer and his wife died after a collision on icy roads.
The polar vortex is forecast to now begin to loosen its grip with a dramatically quick 60-degree swing in temperatures which meteorologists say may be the fastest warm-up on record. But officials say that presents new risks of bursting utilities and flooding.
It’s reported the wild weather has caused more than 30 record lows to be broken across the Midwest.
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