BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Winter's sharpest bite in years moved past painful into life-threatening territory Tuesday, prompting officials throughout the Midwest to take extraordinary measures to protect the homeless and other vulnerable people from the bitter cold, including turning some city buses into mobile warming shelters in Chicago.
Temperatures plunged as low as minus 26 degrees in North Dakota with wind chills as low as minus 62 degrees in Minnesota. It was nearly that cold in Wisconsin and Illinois. Governors in Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan declared emergencies as the worst of the cold threatened on Wednesday.
The bitter cold is the result of a split in the polar vortex that allowed temperatures to plunge much further south in North America than normal.
The National Weather Service forecast for Wednesday night called for temperatures in Chicago as low as minus 28 degrees, with wind chills to minus 50 degrees. Detroit's outlook was for Wednesday overnight lows around minus 15 degrees, with wind chills dropping to minus 40 degrees.
"These are actually a public health risk and you need to treat it appropriately," Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Tuesday. "They are life-threatening conditions and temperatures."
A wind chill of minus 25 can freeze skin within 15 minutes, according to the National Weather Service.
At least four deaths were linked to the weather system, including a man struck and killed by a snow plow in the Chicago area, a young couple whose SUV struck another on a snowy road in northern Indiana and a Milwaukee man found frozen to death in a garage.
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A Moorhead, Minn., area elementary school electronic sign shows the temperature on Tuesday. Daytime temperatures in the Fargo-Moorhead area were near -20 degrees as frigid weather grips the area.
A message on a business marquee accurately sums up the weather Tuesday in Minneapolis.
Drivers on south-bound I-81 make their way through a heavy snow Tuesday in Emory, Va.
Traffic sits stopped during a traffic jam on I-196 westbound on Tuesday. Lake effect now made travel dangerous between Grand Rapids, Mich., and Holland, Mich.
Evan Roberts is covered in frost while jogging across the Stone Arch Bridge on Tuesday in Minneapolis. Extreme cold and record-breaking temperatures are crawling into parts of the Midwest after a powerful snowstorm pounded the region, and forecasters warn that the frigid weather could be life-threatening. Roberts, who is originally from New Zealand, said he will take tomorrow off from running outside and run inside on a treadmill.
Melting snow on traffic signs and light snow on the ground Tuesday in Madison, Miss., along with freezing temperatures, are all that remain aftera cold front moved through state leaving the Jackson metro area with less than an inch of snow.
Blowing snow whips over the landscape Tuesday, as vehicles traverse an Interstate 29 underpass in Fargo, N.D.
A Metra train moves southbound to downtown Chicago as the gas-fired switch heater on the rails keeps the ice and snow off the switches near Metra Western Avenue station Tuesday in Chicago. Forecasters warn that the freezing weather Tuesday will get worse and could be life-threatening.
Snow covered the windshields and hood of vehicles Tuesday outside a Jackson, Miss., motel.
Cars come done wears valley road Tuesday in Maryville, Tenn., after a snow storm hit the area earlier in the morning.