Bitter Arctic air is blasting from the polar vortex into the US and bringing brutally cold temperatures. The polar vortex is a stream of cold air that spins around the stratosphere over the North Pole, but the current has been disrupted and is now pushing south into the United States. The result has been bitterly freezing temperatures, feet of snow, as lakes are frozen over and schools are shut.
Snow has affected the midwestern states, but is now pushing into northeastern US.
Governors in Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan declared emergencies as temperatures plunged as low as -32C in North Dakota, with wind chills as low as -52C in Minnesota on Tuesday.
The National Weather Service said a wind chill of -32C can freeze skin within 15 minutes.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said: “Keeping Michiganders safe during this stretch of dangerously cold temperatures is our priority.
“Such widespread, extreme conditions have not occurred in Michigan for many years and it is imperative that we are proactive with record-low temperatures being predicted by the National Weather Service.”
Wednesday could be the coldest day ever recorded in Chicago with a forecast of -14F (-26C), but it’s possible the Windy City could break its all-time coldest temperatures of -27C.
Officials warned Chicago residents to expect an unusually deep and dangerous freeze.
Even the city’s supply of its signature deep-dish pizza was affected: one chain announced it would stop taking delivery orders at 8pm on Tuesday.
The wind chill will make temperatures feel as low as -50F (-46C) through Thursday, the National Weather Service said.
What is the coldest temperature in the US today?
Temperatures could reach lows of -30F to -40F (-34C to -40C) in parts of the Northern Plains and Great Lakes on Wednesday, the NWS said.
Ricky Castro, a National Weather Service meteorologist, in Romeoville, Illinois: “This could possibly be history-making.”
As much as two feet (60cm) of snow was forecast in Wisconsin, and six inches (15cm) in Illinois.
Snow was expected through Wednesday from the Great Lakes region into New England.
AccuWeather meteorologist Mike Doll said: “Some locations in the Midwest will be below zero continuously for 48-72 hours.”
As many as 55 million people in 24 percent of the continental USA could be at zero degrees or lower on Wednesday morning.
Regional governments have closed hundreds of schools and airlines cancelled more than 2,000 flights, according to the Flightaware flight tracking website.