Published: Sat, February 02, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Midwest polar vortex 2019: Death toll rises to 21 as temperatures fall

Midwest polar vortex 2019: Death toll rises to 21 as temperatures fall

Warmer-than-normal weather was on the way, but that offered little comfort to vulnerable populations such as the homeless and elderly enduring cold that caused frostbite in minutes and made being outside potentially deadly.

In Chicago, which experienced temperatures as low as minus 22F (minus 30 Celsius) earlier this week, temperatures of 19F (-7C) on Friday morning felt positively balmy as a measure of normalcy returned to the nation's third-largest city.

Ninety million people - a third of the U.S. - have seen temperatures of -17C or below.

Masters, from Weather Underground, said the polar vortex was "rotating up into Canada" and not expected to return in the next couple of weeks. The "vortex" part of the name refers to streams of powerful westerly winds that circulate each pool of cold air, which hold them in place near the poles.

Experts say the rapid thaw is unprecedented, and it could create problems ─ potholes will appear on roads, and bridges will be weakened by the freeze-thaw cycle.

Officials across multiple states linked at least 20 deaths to the deep freeze.

"Due to extremely high demand for natural gas with these record low temperatures and a facility incident, Consumers Energy has asked that everyone who is able to turn down their thermostats through Friday at noon so we can all get through this with minimal harm", Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement. The record low of -27F (-33C) was on January 20, 1985. Cedar Rapids, Iowa, set a daily record low of minus 30 degrees (minus 34 Celsius). In order to both stop the degradation of our environment and best survive the weather catastrophes that are already happening, we need a system that prioritizes human life and welfare, not private profit.

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In Minnesota and MI, residents were asked by gas companies to turn down their home thermostats to help handle heating demands. That's more than half of the scheduled flights for Wednesday and Thursday.

Andrea Cusack, a pharmacist in MI, began using her snowmobile to deliver essential prescriptions to snowed-in residents, according to the Lansing State Journal.

Polar vortex is not a natural disaster like hurricanes, or tornados. More flurries will arrive after 2 a.m. Friday, though temperatures will rise to positive digits soon after that. A wind chill of minus 52 on early Wednesday was the fifth coldest since 1929.

There were also winter storm and blizzards warnings active across the country from the east to the west coast.

A tourist bundles up as he visits the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC, yesterday, as the United States ex periences a Polar Vortex. These people are the most at risk, as they are relying on the limited capacity of inadequate social welfare services, or the goodwill of people they know to stay out of the cold. The result is that even as winters are becoming warmer on average, these extreme cold events are happening more often.

Frigid temperatures are swallowing up many states thanks to a mass of arctic air making its way much farther south than it normally does - and NASA caught a glimpse of it using one of its trusty satellites.

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