CHICAGO (AP) — A blast of polar air enveloped much of the Midwest on Wednesday, cracking train rails, breaking water pipes and straining electrical systems across the Rust Belt with some of the lowest temperatures in a generation.
The deep freeze closed schools and businesses and canceled flights in the nation's third-largest city, which was as cold as the Arctic. Heavily dressed repair crews hustled to keep utilities from failing.
Chicago dropped to a low of around minus 23 degrees, slightly above the city's lowest-ever reading of minus 27 degrees from January 1985. Milwaukee had similar conditions. Minneapolis recorded minus 27 (minus 32 Celsius). Sioux Falls, South Dakota, saw minus 25 degrees.
Wind chills reportedly made it feel like minus 50 degrees or worse. Downtown Chicago streets were largely deserted after most offices told employees to stay home. Trains and buses 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.
The Postal Service took the rare step of suspending mail delivery in many places, and in southeastern Minnesota, even the snowplows were idled by the weather.
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Fire comes out of the top of two silo-looking structures Wednesday at the compressor station at Consumers Energy in Armada Township, Mich. Consumers Energy has called on customers to voluntarily reduce their natural gas usage following a fire at a suburban Detroit gas compressor station amid bitterly cold weather. The Jackson-based utility says no one was injured in the fire at its Ray Natural Gas Compressor Station in Macomb County. The cause of the fire was under investigation.
A person walks along the lakeshore Wednesday 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.
The outside temperature was -28 as Emily Pieper lead cows to the milking parlor at Metogga Lake Dairy early Wednesday in New Prague, Minn. The Pieper family dairy farm has been around since 1973, and this morning starting a 4 a.m., the milked 412 cows, produce 4,000 gallons of milk.
A St. Paul firefighter works at the scene of a house fire Wednesday in St. Paul, Minn.
A person sleeps at the Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky in Covington, Ky., on Wednesday. The shelter also provides hot meals and showers. Emergency cold shelters have opened across the Greater Cincinnati as the wind chill has reached 20 below zero in parts of the area.
Drivers navigate their way through downtown St. Joseph, Mich., Wednesday in subzero temperatures and near whiteout conditions.
Commuters braves the wind and snow Wednesday in frigid weather in Cincinnati. The extreme cold and record-breaking temperatures are crawling into a swath of states spanning from North Dakota to Missouri and into Ohio after a powerful snowstorm pounded the region earlier this week.
A man rides his bike down a street, Wednesday in Des Moines, Iowa.
A person travels by horse along a snowy path Wednesday in White Horse, Pa., Lancaster County.
First responders evacuate a person found in sub-freezing temperatures on the banks of Carter Lake on Wednesday in Omaha, Neb.
The Kokomo Rescue Mission is one of several warming shelters in Kokomo, Ind., for those looking for a place to get out of the below freezing temperatures on Wednesday.
A woman walks past a mural near the Metro Bus Transit Center on Wednesday in downtown St. Cloud, Minn. Temperatures in the area were in the minus 30 range.
Jason Johnson helps his son, Jacquio, jump start his car Wednesday on the south side of South Bend, Ind.
A ride sharing car waits for a passenger as a woman pushes a stroller Wednesday during winter squall in Lower Manhattan, N.Y.
A pedestrian grabs onto her hood in lower Manhattan in New York.
A city of Charleston worker uses a tractor to sweep snow from the sidewalk on the Lee Street bridge over the Elk River on Wednesday in Charleston, W.V.
The sun rises behind icicles formed on the harbor Wednesday in Port Washington, Wis.
Ice forms along the shore of Lake Michigan before sunrise Wednesday in Chicago.
This image made from a video on the Parker School District's Facebook page shows a video of a talking hot dog announcing school closures due to the extreme cold weather in the South Dakota school district.
A bubble freezes on the end of the wand Wednesday in Mankato, Minn.