Extremely cold temperatures, frigid wind chills, and snowfall are continuing to cause significant transportation disruptions across a broad swath of the US on Thursday, January 31, from the Midwest to the Northeast. The so-called "polar vortex" has left at least eight people dead in the Midwest and has affected some 250 million Americans.
Significant flight disruptions have been reported at Chicago-area airports, including over 1600 flight cancelations at O'Hare International Airport (ORD) and Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW), due to temperatures of -31°C (-25°F) and forecast wind chills down to -40°C (-40°F). Flight disruptions, including delays and cancelations, have also notably been reported at Greater Rochester International Airport (ROC) (New York state).
Winter storm warnings are in effect for areas forecast to receive lake-effect snow on the eastern coasts of Lake Michigan (Michigan) and Lake Erie and Ontario (New York state). Temperatures in many areas affected by the polar vortex are forecast to warm up on Friday, February 1. Significant and lingering transportation disruptions (e.g. due to road closures and flight cancelations and delays) are to be expected from the Midwest to the Northeast over the coming hours and days.
The extreme temperatures are caused by low-pressure system of arctic air that sometimes travels south, in an event commonly known as a "polar vortex." On January 30, officials recorded lows of -30°C (-23°F) in Chicago (Illinois) and -34°C (-30°F) in La Crosse (Wisconsin), nearing or breaking record-low temperature readings, while wind chills in parts of Minnesota and North Dakota dipped as low as -54°C (-66°F).
Individuals in affected areas are advised to monitor local weather reports, anticipate transportation disruptions (e.g. flight delays and cancelations, icy roads, limited visibility), confirm flight reservations, refrain from unnecessary travel, and keep sufficient food, water, and warm clothing if driving.
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