Washington: At least eight people have died in the US Midwest as the region shivers in the grip of its worst cold snap in decades, the authorities said.
On Thursday, the country’s third largest city, Chicago, was likely to break its 1985 record low of minus 32 degrees Celsius, according to meteorologists. The city has already passed the record low for January 31, the BBC reported.
The National Weather Service (NWS) announced Rockford, Illinois, west of Chicago, has already broken its all-time low record and dipped to minus 34 early on Thursday. Cities across Iowa have also broken temperature records.
An 18-year-old Iowa student was found dead outside a college building. A young couple also died in Indiana, a 55-year-old died in Wisconsin, apart from two victims in their 70s and two in 80s, media reports showed.
Hospitals have been treating patients reporting frostbite.
The iciest blasts were likely to come on Thursday and Friday. Cotton in Minnesota was the coldest place in the US on Thursday with a low of minus 48 degrees Celsius based on preliminary data, the BBC said.
Around 90 million people — a third of the US population — have seen temperatures of minus 17 degrees Celsius or below.
Some 250 million Americans overall have experienced the “polar vortex” conditions, but southern states such as Florida have escaped the brutal chill.
The chill is drifting eastward since Thursday, bringing sub-zero temperatures to north-eastern cities such as Boston.
Areas downwind of the Great Lakes were expected to be buried by intense “snow lakes” into Thursday night.
The Arctic weather could cost the US billions of dollars. In 2014, a similar polar freeze cost the country an estimated $5billion, CBS News reported.
In Minnesota and Michigan residents have been asked by natural gas company Xcel Energy to reduce their home thermostats to 17 degrees Celsius in order to help the company handle heating demands.