Polar Vortex: Death Toll Climbs After the Brutal Cold Spell

Chicago set for coldest day ever recorded as polar vortex hits city

An Arctic air mass blamed for the deaths of more than 20 people in the USA began moving out to sea Friday, easing its grip on about a dozen states that have endured days of record-breaking cold.

Bryan Jackson, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said on Friday the core of the vortex was pulling back, though residual icy air was still pushing over to the U.S. Northeast.

The Polar Vortex is a big, cold area of low pressure that forms over the north pole during Winter.

Temperatures yesterday morning ranged from below -18C to -10C in parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

"It's got to be an nearly 50 degree difference, it feels like spring", said one commuter heading home from Chicago's downtown financial district, wearing only a sweatshirt.

Chicago-A brutal cold spell that paralyzed the US Midwest, freezing water mains, causing power outages and canceling flights, eased on Friday, with forecasts predicting a rapid thaw. The Washington DC area, which had -7C temperatures, was under a winter weather advisory until the afternoon as around 2.5cm of snowfall accumulated during the morning.

Blocks of ice crunched down the river that runs through downtown Chicago, the Niagra Falls turned to solid ice in places, and half the Great Lakes were covered in ice. "Now the high pressure is over Pennsylvania and NY...as it moves east, it'll bring in air from the south and we do expect it to warm up over the weekend". According to the Associated Press, an unusually warm blast from the south dramatically heated the air 20 miles above the North Pole last month.

Rachel Liao, 29, a student at the New School in NY, said she wished classes had been cancelled due to the cold. "I'm not used to this".

With wind chill factored in, temperatures dropped to as low as -64 degrees Fahrenheit (-53C) in Minnesota, -59F (-51C) in Wisconsin, -58F (-58C) in Iowa and -55F (-48C) in IL. The central Plains will be in the low 60s, almost 20 to 25 degrees above normal, the weather service said.

In Chicago, the temperature early Thursday went down to -21 F (-29 C) - close to breaking the record for the lowest ever recorded, -27 F (-33 C).

At least 18 deaths have been linked to the deep freeze since Saturday, and the number was expected to climb as authorities identified more victims.

Stathis Poulakidas, a burn surgeon at Chicago's John H. Stroger Jr.

Amtrak restored rail service to and from Chicago on Friday, and the U.S. Postal Services resumed mail delivery in six Midwest states.

More than 2,300 flights were cancelled across the USA on Thursday, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware.

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