MADISON, Wis. - Millions across the US Midwest experienced a freeze normally reserved for the Arctic Circle on Wednesday as temperatures dropped to nearly 50 degrees below zero. The frightful cold, expected to bottom out with record lows Thursday morning, was blamed for several deaths across the region, and fears for the most vulnerable populations soared as night fell.
The nearly unthinkable temperatures caused airline gas lines to freeze and electrical grids to collapse, and they kept much of the northern United States home-bound. Power outages roiled swaths of Wisconsin and Iowa, plunging thousands into a brief, unheated darkness. The dry, frigid air froze exposed water instantly, led to spontaneous nosebleeds, and made even brief forays outdoors extremely hazardous.
Officials in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota had linked six deaths to the weather as of Wednesday night, including several people who probably froze to death. Governors in Wisconsin and Michigan declared states of emergency and ordered all state government offices closed; some state agencies in Illinois were closed Wednesday, as well.
For the region’s most vulnerable - even those hardened to the Upper Midwest’s long winters - this polar vortex has been especially perilous.
Even some Midwestern homes were not cold-proofed refuges for hardened residents.
Brian Wallheimer, a science writer for Purdue University, corralled his three young children at home in Rockford, Illinois, after schools closed their doors Wednesday. The freezing air infiltrated his-two story home northwest of Chicago, he said, and frost has accumulated on the window sills and door hinges.
By Katie Mettler, Alex Horton, Amy B Wang, Angela Fritz·(c) 2019, The Washington Post ·Jan 31, 2019