Dramatic temperature swings heading to Midwest

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During winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the polar vortex can become unstable and expand, sending cold Arctic air southward over the US.

The Arctic winds caused the weather to plummet to life-threatening temperatures across the US Midwest yesterday. By nightfall the mercury was hovering at -14C in Detroit and -29C in Minneapolis.

The cold has frozen sections of Niagara Falls and sent blocks of ice floating down the river winding through Chicago's downtown. Even the city's supply of its signature deep-dish pizza was affected: The Lou Malnati's chain announced it would stop taking delivery orders at 8 p.m. on Tuesday.

A forecast for warmer weather by the weekend offered little comfort to those enduring icy conditions, brutal winds and temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees. Forecasters advised against breathing deeply or talking while outside and warned that frostbite and hypothermia issues could occur within seconds.On Wednesday biting temperatures even caused Hell -a small town near Michigan- to freeze over, which prompted much discussion on social media. Snow was expected through Wednesday from the Great Lakes region into New England.

"If you don't have to be outside, don't", meteorologist Amy Seeley warned Chicago residents.

Gilbert Rothschild, 79, walked through a corridor wearing three sweaters and an undershirt underneath his parka.

"When we put them in - back in the beginning - we never thought they would last this long", he said.

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Rothschild, the president of a liquor retailer, said he planned on keeping his stores open on Wednesday, figuring customers who were not working might want to pick up something to keep them feeling warm at home.

Homeless and displaced people were particularly at risk, with Chicago and other cities setting up warming shelters. So far Wednesday, more than 2,000 flights into, out of and within the U.S. have been canceled, according to FlightAware. A weaker jet stream lets the cold air escape south to places like the Upper Midwest, Siberia, and Sweden.

It has been more than 20 years since a similar Arctic blast covered a swath of the Midwest and Northeast, according to the weather service.

A low of minus 10F (minus 23C) was forecast in Chicago and elsewhere in northern IL on Wednesday.

The National Weather Service warned of "life-threatening wind chills, likely leading to widespread record lows and low maximum temperatures" due to the arctic air mass intrusion which is now surging south into the Upper Midwest, which will eventually spread across the eastern two-thirds of the country later this week.

Rockford, Illinois, saw a record low temperature of minus 31 (minus 35 Celsius), on Thursday.

The freezing weather may have killed a man in Rochester, Minnesota, who was found dead outside his home on Sunday, according to a report by WCCO, a local CBS affiliate.

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It probably would not happen at an official reporting station, which are usually airports, but would likely come in midmorning from one of its cooperative weather observers in the coldest locations in Minnesota.

Schools and colleges have temporarily closed in many parts of the Midwest, and the Postal Service has effectively canceled Wednesday mail delivery in parts of at least 10 states out of concerns for the safety of employees.

Amtrak began to restore service out of Chicago, one of the nation's busiest rail hubs, after canceling dozens of trains.

The Chicago Zoological Society said it would shut Brookfield Zoo for only the fourth time in its 85-year history on Tuesday and Wednesday.

He tweeted: "In the attractive Midwest, windchill temperatures are reaching minus 60 degrees, the coldest ever recorded".

A state of emergency has been declared in the Midwestern states of Wisconsin, Michigan and IL.

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