Go away, polar vortex: Record-shattering cold set to give way to 'spring-like temperatures'

Steve Kiggins

It's cold this morning across the Midwest and Northeast.

Not record-shattering cold, though.

After days of stunningly bitter winter weather that sent temperatures plummeting as low as 56 degrees below zero, paralyzed airline and rail travel and suspended mail delivery in nine states, the worst of this polar vortex invasion is over.

While morning temperatures were still near zero across a wide swath of the nation – including Minneapolis, Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo, and Burlington, Vt., – the forecast for Friday and into the weekend was downright balmy.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a case where we’ve seen (such a big) shift in temperatures” in the winter, said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the Weather Underground firm. “Past record-cold waves have not dissipated this quickly. … Here we are going right into spring-like temperatures.”

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In Chicago, where the Chicago River turned to ice as temperatures fell to 21 degrees below zero for just the 15th time since records began in the 1870s, according to Accuweather, the Friday high was projected to be 19 degrees. Above zero.

The temperature was forecast to rise 20 degrees on Saturday, to 39, with Accuweather calling for 45 on Sunday and 52 on Monday.

In Detroit, which broke a 99-year-old record for Jan. 31, coming in at minus-14 degrees on Thursday morning, Accuweather called for a high of 15 on Friday, followed by 37 on Saturday, 45 on Sunday and 50 on Monday.

Daily records also fell in cities across Indiana, Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin. International Falls, Minnesota, broke a 23-year-old record by 10 degrees, with a low of 45 degrees below zero on Thursday morning.

Milwaukee topped a record that had stood since 1899 by six degrees with a low of minus-21.

While Minneapolis didn’t set an all-time record on Thursday, the town of Cotton, about 175 miles north, checked in at 56 degrees below zero, just four degrees shy of the state record of minus-60.

Three cities did set all-time record lows on Thursday morning, according to Accuweather: Rockford (minus-30) and Moline (minus-33) in Illinois and Cedar Rapids (minus-30) in Iowa.

The the polar vortex was “rotating up into Canada” and not expected to return in the next couple of weeks, Masters said, adding that “it won’t be as intense” if it returns in late February.

The winter blast could be blamed for at least 15 deaths after four fatalities in New York on Thursday, including two men who died clearing snow in Erie County. Another man was killed when his vehicle hit a snowdrift and slammed into a pole in Livingston County and a homeless man’s frozen body was found in a suburban Buffalo bus shelter.

Contributing: Doyle Rice and Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY; The Associated Press.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Go away, polar vortex: Record-shattering cold set to give way to 'spring-like temperatures'