The painfully cold weather system that put much of the Midwest into a historic deep freeze was expected to ease Thursday, though temperatures still tumbled to record lows in some places.
Disruptions caused by the cold will persist, too, including power outages and canceled flights and trains. Crews in Detroit will need days to repair water mains that burst Wednesday, and other pipes can still burst in persistent subzero temperatures.
Before the worst of the cold begins to lift, more frigid weather is expected. Record-breaking cold hit northern Illinois early Thursday, when the temperature in Rockford dropped to negative 30 degrees (negative 34 Celsius). The previous record in the city, northwest of Chicago, was negative 27 degrees (negative 33 Celsius) on Jan. 10, 1982.
Schools in parts of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois and Iowa remained closed. But students headed back to school Thursday in eastern North Dakota, where the weather was forecast to crawl out of double-digit sub-zero temperatures.
As temperatures bounce back into the single digits Thursday and into the comparative balmy 20s by Friday, more people were expected to return to work in the nation’s third-largest city, which resembled a ghost town after most offices told employees to stay home.
The blast of polar air that enveloped much of the Midwest on Wednesday closed schools and businesses and strained infrastructure with some of the lowest temperatures in a generation. The deep freeze snapped rail lines, canceled hundreds of flights and strained utilities.
Chicago dropped to a low of around minus 23 (minus 30 Celsius), slightly above the city’s lowest-ever reading of minus 27 (minus 32 Celsius) from January 1985. Milwaukee had similar conditions. Minneapolis recorded minus 27 (minus 32 Celsius). Sioux Falls, South Dakota, saw minus 25 (minus 31 Celsius).
Wind chills reportedly made it feel like minus 50 (minus 45 Celsius) or worse. Trains and buses in Chicago operated with few passengers. The hardiest commuters ventured out only after covering nearly every square inch of flesh against the extreme chill, which froze ice crystals on eyelashes and eyebrows in minutes. (AP)