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Polar vortex: Millions hit by freezing temperatures in US

Polar vortex: Millions hit by freezing temperatures in US

The painfully cold weather system that put much of the Midwest into a historic deep freeze was expected to ease Thursday, though temperatures could still tumble to record lows in some places before the region begins to thaw out. With the wind chill factor, low temperatures Los Angeles would feel about 100F warmer than Chicago on Wednesday. Higher temperatures expected this weekend offered little respite to those struggling with the sub-zero torment.

Thursday morning temperatures dipped to 21 degrees below zero - minus 39 degrees with windchill, according to the National Weather Service.

The freezing weather has been caused by the polar vortex, a mass of freezing air which usually rotates around the North Pole but has drifted south to the United States.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said state police would crack down on truckers who violated a travel ban on Interstate 90 between Rochester and the Pennsylvania border, after a tractor-trailer crash was blamed for a major pileup.

The polar vortex that has gripped the Plains and Midwest will finally lift back into Canada, the National Weather Service says, promising a warm-up that will bring a whiplash shift in temperatures.

All-time records are in jeopardy this week as the coldest air in a generation descends from the Arctic into the Lower 48.

"The bitter cold temperatures pose a real risk to people across the state", Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker said on Twitter after touring state emergency operations.

"It's going to be minus 30 in parts of North Dakota today", Hamrick said. More than 5,000 people in the Twin Cities were without power Tuesday night, as the temperature fell to -25 degrees Fahrenheit.

Temperatures at this range can cause frostbite on exposed skin in just a few minutes.

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The US Postal Service said it would suspend mail delivery on Wednesday in parts or all of several Midwest states including North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and MI.

One death involved an elderly IL man whose body was found hours after he had fallen trying to get back into his home.

A University of Iowa student was found unresponsive on campus on Wednesday and died, according to university officials.

According to the National Weather Service, the coldest recorded temperature in Chicago was minus 27 degrees (minus 33C) on January 20, 1985. "People can't last outside even for minutes". The US Postal Service suspended mail deliveries in ten states Wednesday and Thursday out of concern for the safety of mail delivery personnel. Mail service won't be restored in MI until February 1, officials said.

Including the wind chill factor, parts of the Dakotas, Wisconsin and Minnesota had temperatures of -70 Fahrenheit (-56.7 Celsius), according to forecasters.

Video footage of the Chicago River shows ice forming on the top, with vapors coming off some sections - giving the appearance that the river is steaming.

Even parts of the South, such as the mountains of Kentucky, Tennessee and upper Georgia, would be in the single digits, he said.

More than a thousand flights, close to two-thirds of those scheduled, were cancelled on Wednesday into or out of Chicago O'Hare and Chicago Midway global airports, according to the flight tracking site FlightAware. The warning followed a fire at a utility's suburban Detroit facility that affected natural gas supplies.