Polar air brought record-low temperatures to much of the U.S. Midwest on Wednesday. School was canceled for Wednesday and Thursday in many cities, including Chicago, and police warned of the risk of accidents on icy highways. Michigan said all state offices would remain closed through Thursday. The U.S. Postal Service even halted deliveries from parts of the Dakotas through Ohio.
In Chicago, temperatures hovered around minus 18 Fahrenheit. Temperatures in parts of the Northern Plains and Great Lakes plunged to as low minus 42 in Park Rapids, Minnesota, and minus 31F in Fargo, North Dakota, according to the National Weather Service. The frigid winds were headed for the U.S. East Coast later on Wednesday into Thursday.
At least five deaths related to extreme cold weather have been reported since Saturday in Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Hundreds of flights, more than half of those scheduled, were canceled on Wednesday out of Chicago O’Hare and Chicago Midway international airports, and Amtrak said it would cancel all trains in and out of Chicago on Wednesday. Most federal government offices in Washington D.C. opened three hours late on Wednesday due to frigid weather already impacting the area.