PHOTOS: Deadly deep freeze grips Midwestern U.S.

A harbor light is covered by snow and ice on the Lake Michigan at 39th Street Harbor, Jan. 30, 2019, in Chicago. (Photo: Nam Y. Huh/AP)

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)

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A man crosses a street in whiteout conditions during a winter storm in Buffalo, N.Y, on Jan. 30, 2019. (Photo: Lindsay Dedario/Reuters)
A student reacts to subzero temperatures while walking to class at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minn., Jan. 29, 2019. (Photo: Eric Miller/Reuters)
A harbor light is covered with snow and ice on the Lake Michigan at 39th Street Harbor, Jan. 30, 2019, in Chicago. (Photo: Nam Y. Huh/AP)
Paul Kollauf is framed by an accumulation of snow on the panes of a bus shelter while waiting for a bus on East Washington Avenue in Madison, Wis., on Jan. 30, 2019. (Photo: John Hart/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)
Frozen Lake Michigan is pictured in St. Joseph, Mich., Jan. 2019 in this picture obtained from social media. (Photo: Joshua Nowicki via Reuters)
A student is dressed for subzero temperatures while walking to class at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis on Jan. 29, 2019. (Photo: Eric Miller/Reuters)
A warning sign is covered by ice at Clark Square park in Evanston, Ill., Jan. 30, 2019. (Photo: Nam Y. Huh/AP)
A shoe sore displays a sign that it is closed due to weather on January 30, 2019 in Oak Park, Illinois. (Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Icicles form on the walkway at North Avenue Beach of Lake Michigan in Chicago, Ill., Jan. 29, 2019. (Photo: Pinar Istek/Reuters)
Workers shovel at the entrance to City Hall in whiteout conditions during a winter storm in Buffalo, N.Y. Jan 30, 2019. (Photo: Lindsay Dedario/Reuters)
A car passes an elementary school closed due to cold weather, Jan. 30, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo: Charlie Neibergall/AP)
Frost covers part of the face of University of Minnesota student Daniel Dylla during a morning jog along Mississippi River Parkway on Jan. 29, 2019, in Minneapolis. (Photo: David Joles/Star Tribune via AP)
A sign shows the current outdoor temperature in Glenview, Ill., Jan. 30, 2019. (Photo: Nam Y. Huh/AP)
Janet Burchfield, of Girard, walks on West Ninth Street near Peach Street on Jan. 30, 2019, in Erie, Pa. (Photo: Jack Hanrahan/Erie Times-News via AP)
Steam rises from the Saint Joseph River as temperatures plunge to minus 19 degrees, Jan. 30, 2019, in South Bend, Ind. (Photo: Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune via AP)
Pedestrians bundle up in sub-freezing temperatures on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Omaha, in Omaha, Neb., Jan. 30, 2019. (Photo: Nati Harnik/AP)
Steam rises on the surface of Lake Michigan on Jan. 30, 2019, in Chicago. (Photo: Kiichiro Sato/AP)
Stephen Gabris shovels snow during a winter storm in Buffalo, N.Y., on Jan. 30, 2019. (Photo: Lindsay Dedario/Reuters)
Ice forms along the shore of Lake Michigan before sunrise on Jan. 30, 2019, in Chicago. (Photo: Kiichiro Sato/AP)
Geese huddle together as the sun rises at the harbor in Port Washington, Wis., on Jan. 30, 2019. A deadly arctic deep freeze enveloped the Midwest with record-breaking temperatures. (Photo: Jeffrey Phelps/AP)
A man poses for a picture as ice forms along the shore of Lake Michigan, on Jan. 30, 2019, in Chicago. (Photo: Kiichiro Sato/AP)
A commuter braves the wind and snow in frigid weather on Jan. 30, 2019, in Cincinnati. (Photo: John Minchillo/AP)
The sun rises behind icicles formed on the harbor in Port Washington, Wis., on Jan. 30, 2019. A deadly arctic deep freeze enveloped the Midwest with record-breaking temperatures. (Photo: Jeffrey Phelps/AP)
Ice forms along the shore of Lake Michigan before sunrise on Jan. 30, 2019, in Chicago. (Photo: Kiichiro Sato/AP)
A person walks along the lakeshore on Jan. 30, 2019, in Chicago. A deadly arctic deep freeze enveloped the Midwest with record-breaking temperatures on Wednesday, triggering widespread closures of schools and businesses, and prompting the U.S. Postal Service to take the rare step of suspending mail delivery to a wide swath of the region. (Photo: Kiichiro Sato/AP)
Jillian Hansen, a senior at the University of Minnesota studying political science, walks on campus wrapped up in an oversized scarf as snow flurries floated in the air, Jan. 29, 2019, in Minneapolis. (Photo: Anthony Souffle/Star Tribune via AP)
Moorhead, MN area elementary school electronic sign shows to temperature, Jan. 29, 2019. Daytime temperatures in the Fargo-Moorhead area were near -20F as frigid weather grips the area. (Photo: Bruce Crummy/AP)
Commuters brave the wind and snow in frigid weather on Jan. 30, 2019, in Cincinnati. The extreme cold and record-breaking temperatures are affecting a swath of states spanning from North Dakota to Missouri and into Ohio after a powerful snowstorm pounded the region earlier this week. (Photo: John Minchillo/AP)
Chicago’s lakefront is covered with ice on Jan. 30, 2019. Temperatures are plummeting in Chicago as officials warn against venturing out into the dangerously cold weather. (Photo: Teresa Crawford/AP)

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