Polar Vortex: Death Toll Spikes To 8, Schools Closed, Mail Delivery Suspended, As Subzero Temps Cause Ice Quakes

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Ice quakes are occurring in Illinois and Minnesota overnight.  Millions across the Midwest experienced a freeze normally reserved for the Arctic Circle as temperatures dropped to nearly 50 degrees below zero Wednesday.
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The frightful cold, bottoming out to record lows Thursday morning, was blamed for several deaths across the region, and fears for the most vulnerable populations soared.

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.

Governors in Wisconsin and Michigan declared states of emergency and ordered all state government offices closed; some state agencies in Illinois were closed, as well.
Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy:  AP
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