The nearly unthinkable temperatures caused airline gas lines to freeze, led to the collapse of electrical grids, and kept much of the northern United States homebound. Power outages roiled swaths of Wisconsin and Iowa, plunging thousands into a brief, unheated darkness. The dry, frigid air froze exposed water instantly, led to spontaneous nosebleeds, and made even brief forays outdoors extremely hazardous.
Officials across multiple states have linked at least six deaths to the weather, including several people who may have frozen to death in Milwaukee, Detroit and Rochester, Minnesota.
Authorities said a reported death in Peoria, Ill. may have also been weather-related.
In Iowa City, University of Iowa officials said an “unresponsive” student had been discovered behind an academic hall and later died at the hospital. Authorities haven’t released a cause of death, but police told a local TV station they believe the extreme weather was a factor; the Press Citizen reported that the air temperature at the time the student was found was minus-22, with a wind chill of minus-51.
Moline, Ill., hit a new low Thursday — its lowest temperature in city history. The thermometer dropped to minus-33, five degrees lower than the old record of minus-28, set in 1996. Rockford, Ill., hit minus-30 degrees at 6:45 a.m. Central Time, which broke the old record of minus-27 set on Jan. 20, 1982.
The capitol building in Madison, where people sought shelter during business hours, remained open as the temperatures outside plunged to minus-24; the estimated wind chill made it feel like minus-48 degrees.