CHICAGO: A brutal cold wave moved eastward Thursday after bringing temperatures in the US Midwest lower than those in Antarctica, grounding flights, closing schools and businesses and raising fears of hypothermia, reports AFP.
The extreme weather has now been blamed for as many as eight deaths, US news outlets reported.Mail deliveries were suspended and people were encouraged to stay home in nearly a dozen US states where the mercury plunged into the negative double digits, the worst freeze to grip the region in a generation.
The phenomenon stemming from a blast of Arctic air caused surreal scenes throughout the region, such as steam rising off the waters of Lake Michigan—the result of extremely cold air passing over warmer water below. Parts of Niagara Falls solidified into frozen stillness, and blocks of ice covered the river winding through downtown Chicago.
America’s third city was in the direct path of the harsh weather and experienced its second-coldest day ever. Chicago was on track to break new records overnight when temperatures were forecast to reach their lowest points in the early hours Thursday. “This is a historic cold, obviously,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told a Wednesday night news conference. “They are life-threatening temperatures, and they should be treated accordingly,” he cautioned.
The most intense cold was expected overnight Wednesday into Thursday, said Ben Deubelbeiss, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, The New York Times reported.
The Wednesday morning temperature in the Windy City was -22 degrees Fahrenheit (-30 Celsius), which felt like -50 degrees (-46 Celsius) with wind chill.
It was colder than Alaska’s state capital and even colder than parts of Antarctica. “It feels like being close to dry ice,” Leon Gilbert, 31, told AFP. “I can feel my skin tighten up.”Unlike most Chicago residents, Gilbert was required to report to his job at a Starbucks on a downtown street largely devoid of its usual bustle of people and traffic.
Sandwich shop manager Daniel Gonzalez, 37, also reported to work—at 5:00 am.