>> Parts of the Midwest were colder than Antarctica on Wednesday. An arctic blast called the polar vortex brought life-threatening freezing area to the US from North Dakota to Tennessee. In Melrose, Minnesota, the mercury dropped to 38 below zero. Conditions in the region were so unbearable that trash haulers stopped making pickups, and mail carriers suspended deliveries.
In Chicago, streets were nearly empty as temperatures hovered around minus 18 Fahrenheit. Amtrak says it would cancel all trains in and out of the city on Wednesday. And for those that did run, fires were set to keep the tracks from freezing over. Local firefighters in Hammond, Indiana faced a surreal scene as they struggle to hose down a fire with temperatures outside at 24 below zero.
The mayor of Indianapolis this week urged residents to stay indoors.>> Even ten minutes of exposure may very well be harmful.>> Hundreds of flights were cancelled out of Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports. The city cancelled schools for nearly 400,000 students and police warned of the risk of accidents on icy highways.
At least five deaths related to extreme cold weather have been reported since Saturday. The frigid winds were headed for the East Coast later on Wednesday into Thursday.