Polar Vortex Puts Midwest on Ice

A polar vortex full of frigid Canadian air has locked up parts of the Midwest, forcing people from Minnesota to Chicago to St. Louis, Mo., to put their lives on hold while they wait out record-setting low temperatures.

Though the cold front has sent a chill across the country, the center of America has taken the brunt of the blow as the freezing winds first cut into the U.S. from across the Great Lakes. Temperatures throughout the region are expected to hover around -20 degrees Fahrenheit, with wind chill up to 30 degrees colder. Residents of many cities have been warned to stay indoors, as skin exposed to that kind of cold can get frostbite in about five minutes.

Plenty of hardy souls who ventured outside have had to change their plans. As of 1:45 p.m., 3,892 of today’s flights had been canceled throughout the U.S., according to flightaware.com, more than twice the number canceled this past Saturday, Jan. 4. The top three most cancellations all came from airports in the Midwest. Chicago’s O’Hare Airport has nixed 800 so far, 65% of their total. Indianapolis International Airport has had to scrap 71% of its flights, while Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport has canceled 52%.

Schools in Indianapolis, Ind., and Chicago are canceled, as they are in Detroit, Oklahoma City and others places throughout the Midwest. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton called off class for his whole state and issued a weather warning for his citizens that is usually reserved for tornadoes.

Tourists won’t be able to do much in St. Louis today as the frigid temperatures have pretty much put the city on lockdown. The Gateway Arch is closed to visitors, as is the only ski resort.

Indiana’s supreme court won’t operate today, according to USA Today, nor will many cars in the state’s capital, Indianapolis. The city’s mayor issued a travel warning that makes it illegal to drive unless the person is seeking shelter or it is an emergency. Drivers are still allowed to get in their cars in Illinois, but they will find a few highways are shut down.

Temperatures in the Midwest should remain icy for the rest of the day, though they will begin to perk up tomorrow. By the end of the week, the weather is supposed resemble something more like a regular winter.