US Midwest braces for unsafe arctic chill

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The death is the eighth fatality linked to the extremely cold weather in the Midwest.

"Expect frigid temperatures, bitterly cold and life-threatening wind chills, likely leading to widespread record lows and low maximum temperatures from the Upper Midwest to the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley".

Many people were urged to stay home, and those who did venture out were advised by the National Weather Service to cover their mouths and protect their lungs from severely cold air by not "taking deep breaths" and keeping talking to a minimum.

It was colder than Alaska's state capital and even colder than parts of Antarctica. "I can feel my skin tighten up". Unlike most Chicago residents, Gilbert was required to report to his job at a Starbucks on a downtown street largely devoid of its usual bustle of people and traffic.

More than 1,500 flights into Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports were canceled and Amtrak train services did not run.

The brutal chill was caused by the polar vortex, a mass of freezing air that normally spins around the North Pole, but has made its way south into the US.

Wind chills in northern IL were expected to fall as low as -48C which the National Weather Service called "possibly life-threatening".

The National Weather Service said: "These are very risky conditions and can lead to frostbite on exposed skin in as little as five minutes where wind chill values are below -50C".

Temperatures in Chicago will drop again "quite precipitously" on Wednesday night, Orrison said, potentially breaking the record low of minus 27 (minus 33C) on January 21, 1985, the same day as Ronald Reagan's presidential inauguration.

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At least a dozen deaths related to extreme cold weather have been reported since Saturday in Michigan, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota, according to officials and media reports. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp shut down government offices in 35 counties Tuesday, and schools across swaths of the state are also closed. Nonessential employees would stay home.

He said frostbite was possible within 10 minutes in the intense cold, which was forecast to linger for days.

Officials opened warming centers across the region, and in Chicago, police stations were open to anyone seeking refuge from the cold.

In Michigan, homeless shelters in Lansing were becoming "overloaded", Mayor Andy Schor said.

"The concern would be whether they are going to be able to survive in these bitter cold temperatures", Patten told AFP.

Chicago´s regional electric train service was canceled due to wire problems caused by the freezing temperatures, as gas burners heated rail switches to keep trains moving on a reduced schedule.

"I'm here until they let me leave", Robinson said. "All my flights have been cancelled".

It is worth noting that just before the Arctic outbreak in the central United States, Australia experienced a severe heatwave in the midst of summer down under.

One-to-two feet of snow was forecast in Wisconsin and six inches in IL, according to the National Weather Service.

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