‘Polar Vortex’ Plunges Midwest, Northeast into Record Deep Freeze

Temperatures drop to as low as 70 degrees below zero when wind chill is factored in

  • Share
  • Read Later
Michael Dwyer / AP

Waves crash against the sea wall near high tide in Scituate, Mass., Jan. 3, 2014.

Record-low chilling temperatures are predicted to blast parts of the Great Plains, extending to the Eastern seaboard, while a second winter storm is expected later Saturday through Monday.

Factoring in wind chill, temperatures as low as 50 to 70 degrees below zero are forecasted in the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest by Sunday night, according to the National Weather Service. At least 16 deaths have been linked to weather across Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois, USA TODAY reports. Emergency officials warn that such startling temperatures could lead to frostbite or even hypothermia in a matter of minutes. One man died outside his Milwaukee home, where temperatures surged below zero in Wisconsin.

Meteorologists attribute the “polar vortex” to freezing air from the North Pole being pushed down to as far as the Gulf Coast of the U.S., the Associated Press reports. In Atlanta, temperatures will be in the mid-20s by Tuesday while a wintry mix of rain and snow are expected in parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, northern Arkansas, southern Ohio and southwestern Pennsylvania late into Sunday.  The cold front will likely freeze large bodies of water, like the Great Lakes, meaning freezing temperatures could last through winter.

While still digging out from current snowfall, another winter storm will drop more snow and ice onto the the central Plains to the Great Lakes states this weekend. The biggest hit areas will include St. Louis, Indianapolis, Detroit, Cleveland and Buffalo.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton canceled school statewide Monday, due to the frigid weather, for the first time in 17 years, while schools also closed as far south as Washington, D.C.

At least 2,200 flights were canceled across the country Friday, adding to the already 2,300 canceled Thursday. Airlines are bracing for more cancellations Saturday, which included 765 more canceled flights as of 7 a.m., according to FlightStats.com.