Polar vortex covers US Midwest in snow

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Chicago, Jan 31 (IANS) Snow and ice blanketed large parts of the US Midwest due to a Polar Vortex, resulting in extremely low temperatures.

A low of minus 30.5 degrees Celsius was registered in Chicago, which also recorded wind chills, while the city of Rockford in Illinois saw temperatures plummet to minus 31 degrees Celsius on Wednesday, the National Weather Service (NWS) said.

“This is a historic cold, but Chicagoans are historically strong and united in the face of adversity,” Efe news quoted Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel as saying at a press conference.

“Our number one priority is the safety and security of our residents. We have been canvassing homeless residents around the clock, to connect them with resources and warm places to stay.”

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More than 200 warming centres across the city had been opened to provide homeless people with shelter from the biting cold, Emanuel added.

More than 1,700 flights were cancelled on Wednesday, according to the city’s Aviation Department, with more cancellations scheduled for Thursday.

The Polar Vortex is a “large area of low pressure and cold air surrounding the Earth’s North and South Poles”, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which can become unstable during winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

That instability, coupled with a weak jet stream, has led to an expansion of the vortex, sending frigid Arctic air south over the continental US.

The weather system has covered Chicago, the nation’s third largest city, in ice and snow, with Lake Michigan and the Chicago River freezing.

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The NWS also issued blizzard advisories for areas near the Great Lakes, as well as predicting wind chills into Thursday morning.

The Midwest region comprises Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

–IANS

ksk/soni/

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