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Record-Breaking Cold Snap Freezes the Midwest

Polar vortex hits the US: Temperatures reach record lows, with windchill in some areas as low as -76F (-60 C).
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 1/7/2014, 10:08 AM

Snow in New York (illustrative)
Snow in New York (illustrative)
Sigalit Nissanian

About 200 million Americans have been dealing with extreme temperatures Monday and Tuesday, as a record-breaking cold sweeps across the Midwest. 

The cause: a "polar vortex" - a large pocket of very cold air, typically the coldest air in the Northern hemisphere, which sits over the polar region during the winter season, according to Accuweather

Temperatures as low as -31F (-35C) have caused 4 deaths so far, including a 48-year old Chicago man and an infant in Missouri. Many of the accidents appear to be traffic-related.  In addition, schools have closed across the region - including in Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis, and the entire state of Minnesota. 

The temperatures have caused some rare phenomena across the Midwest, particularly in Chicago. Lake Michigan has not only frozen over, but is also giving off waves of steam, as the video shows below. 

Chaim Rubin, a Chicago resident, described the havoc the storm has wreaked on local commuters. 

"I've been seeing and hearing a lot of people trying to un-bury their cars," Rubin explained to Arutz Sheva. "One person seemed like he was at it for maybe half an hour, 45 minutes. It was getting ridiculous; he couldn't escape the ice pit he had spun in the snow for himself." 

Public transportation has been hit even harder. 5,000 flights have been cancelled and 10,000 more are expected to experience delays as a result of the storm, according to USA Today

"The fuel and glycol supplies are frozen at (Chicago O'Hare) and other airports in the Midwest and Northeast," Andrea Huguely, a spokeswoman for American Airlines Group, stated to Reuters. "We are unable to pump fuel and or de-ice."

FOX News notes that in Mendota, Illinois - about 80 miles west of Chicago - three Amtrak trains with more than 500 passengers headed for Chicago were stopped because of blowing and drifting snow. Amtrak's spokesman assured the public that passengers are being fed and kept comfortable by the crew; crew have been working around the clock to get the train moving again. 

Forecasters predict that the storm will slowly move East, beginning as early as Tuesday morning. The storm will hit already-stricken New York and New England, who suffered from snowstorm Hercules Friday. The storm blanketed the region with over 2 feet of snow in some areas, and caused 9 deaths.