US icy winds, ‘polar vortex’ cold snap can give you frostbite in 5 minutes

US icy winds, ‘polar vortex’ cold snap can give you frostbite in 5 minutes

A deadly polar vortex so intensely cold it can give people frostbite and hypothermia in as little as five minutes is sweeping parts of the United States.

Seventy-five per cent of the country’s population — about 220 million people — will be hit with the freezing temperatures this week, with the Northeast and Midwest forecast to be worst hit, CNN reports.

The Associated Press reports temperatures across 12 states have been forecast to be the coldest in at least a generation, if not in history.

Temperatures in Chicago are expected to go as low as minus 32C. Minnesota has had wind chills of minus 52C, AP reported.

Governors in Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan have declared emergencies in their states.

The dangerous weather event has forced the cancellation of thousands of flights, with airlines waiving the usual fees for flight changes.

At least four people have died as a result of the below-freezing temperatures.

They included a man who was struck and killed by a snow plough in Chicago, a young couple whose SUV hit a car on a road in Indiana and a man in Milwaukee who was found frozen to death in a garage.

Schools across the Midwest region have been closed and workers have been sent home.

Authorities are warning about hypothermia and frostbite, which they say could come on after just five minutes of being exposed to the intensely cold outdoors.

These are actually a public health risk and you need to treat it appropriately and with that effort,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “They are life-threatening conditions and temperatures.”

About 160 warming centres have opened up in Chicago, where the wind chill could make weather feel as cold as minus 45C, officials said.

Authorities are working with shelters and churches to move homeless people off the streets as temperatures continue to plunge.

The unusually extreme cold is linked to a sudden warming above the North Pole, AP reported.

A blast of warm air Morocco last month made the normally chilly air temperatures above the North Pole rapidly increase. That split the polar vortex into pieces, which then started to swirl, winter storm expert for Atmospheric Environmental Research Judah Cohen told AP.

Source link