Punishing polar vortex keeps Midwest in its icy grip

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"Heavens, it's very cold", said Vijen Nadasan, 49, a tourist from Johannesburg, South Africa, who planned to spend the day sightseeing with his wife and daughter. UI police said the investigation into 18-year-old Gerald Belz's death is ongoing but believed to be weather related.

Temperatures could reach lows of minus 30F to minus 40F (minus 34C to minus 40C) in parts of the Northern Plains and Great Lakes on Wednesday, the NWS said.

The deadly deep freeze enveloping the Midwest sent temperatures plunging Wednesday to rival some of the most frigid spots in the world, triggering widespread closures of schools and businesses, and the canceling of more than 1,600 flights from Chicago's airports.

Authorities in MI and Minnesota were also asking residents to turn down their thermostats to conserve natural gas. Authorities asked residents to reduce heat consumption wherever possible and decreased heating in government buildings. Elsewhere, a man was struck by a snowplow in the Chicago area, a young couple's SUV struck another on a snowy road in northern in and a Milwaukee man froze to death in a garage, authorities said.

About 1,300 of Wednesday's canceled flights in Chicago were at O'Hare International Airport, one of the nation's busiest airports.

On Wednesday, even some Hamilton (Chicago) performances were cancelled, due to weather conditions.

"We are not done yet".

The weather-related deaths included an elderly IL man who was found several hours after he fell trying to get into his home, an OH woman found in a vacant home, and a University of Iowa student found dead behind an academic hall.

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A wind chill of -25°F (-32°C) can freeze skin within 15 minutes, according to the National Weather Service.

Much of the Chicago River has frozen over, with warnings it could get as cold as -33°C (-27°F), with winds making that feel closer to -45°C (-50°F), officials say.

In Minnesota, wind chills as cold as negative 54 degrees Fahrenheit were reported Wednesday, while Minneapolis was hit with negative 52-degree cold.

The morning temperature in the Windy City was -22 degrees Fahrenheit (-30 Celsius), which felt like -50 degrees (-46 Celsius) with wind chill.

The weather service initially hinted of a possibility that Thursday morning could shatter the 1985 record.

Schools in parts of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois and Iowa remained closed Thursday. Meanwhile, Chicago had near-record temperatures of minus 23 on January 30 and minus 21 on January 31.

"People exposed to extreme cold are susceptible to frostbite in a matter of minutes", warned the NWS.

In Chicago, which is expecting temperatures to... "With more snow on the way, we're not out of the woods yet".

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Officials warned residents to remain on guard Thursday while the sub-zero weather persisted.

Supplies were strained due to high demand from home heaters and from a fire at a natural gas compressor station in MI, officials said.

"This is not over until noon tomorrow".

General Motors Co suspended operations at 11 MI plants and its Warren Tech Centre after a utility made an emergency appeal to users to conserve natural gas after extreme cold and a fire at a compressor station.

City crews braved sub-zero weather to fix a number of frozen water main breaks that plagued Motor City neighbourhoods.

Frozen water mains broke in Detroit and parts of Canada.

Central and northern Wisconsin had weather of minus 20F (-29C) and parts of northern IL, including parts of the Chicago area, saw temperatures between minus 15F (minus 26C) and minus 10F (minus 23C), he said.

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