CHICAGO — A breakdown in the polar vortex sent life-threatening blast of arctic air to more than 216 million people in the US Midwest and parts of the Northeast.
Thousands of flights have been canceled. Schools were closed. Mail delivery was suspended.
At least 12 deaths have been blamed on the bone-chilling cold, as temperatures plunged to as low as minus 56 degrees Fahrenheit – the coldest temperature recorded so far in Cotton, Minnesota.
The coldest temperature ever recorded in the U.S. was -80°F in Alaska in 1971.
The polar vortex has turned Chicago into Siberia, with record breaking sub-zero temperatures that dropped to an all-time low of 27 degrees below zero.
The national weather service said residents in Illinois reported loud booms or frost quakes caused by the rapidly dropping temperatures.
“The official term is cryoseism, but frost quakes are the common term that is used across the area. It’s basically a situation where you have a rapid drop in temperatures, after a situation where the ground may have gotten saturated with some rain like we did recently,” said the National Weather Service’s Ed Shimon. And as that freezes rapidly, the ice starts to expand against objects, homes, and it needs to release some of that pressure.”
The wicked weather in the northeast also created dangerous driving conditions on the road.
A northeast snow squall with near white-out conditions caused this pile-up in western New York, and a massive car crash that shut down a Pennsylvania highway.
The good news is that relief from the extreme cold is on its way. Weather experts expect temperatures to warm up later this week.