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At least 3 deaths attributed to the extreme cold in U.S.

Posted: 6:41 AM, Jan 29, 2019
Updated: 2019-01-29 18:11:26-05

Even for the hardiest, cold-tested Americans, this week's deep freeze is brutal, with dozens of temperature and wind chill records expected to occur from the Dakotas to Long Island, leading to warnings for people to stay inside.

In Minnesota, blustery weather could mean wind chills that could approach 70 below.

"These are VERY DANGEROUS conditions and can lead to frostbite on exposed skin in as little as five minutes where wind chill values are below -50," the National Weather Service office near Minneapolis and St. Paul tweeted. "Best thing you can do is limit your time outside."

A mammoth blast of frigid air sweeping through the Midwest is headed toward the East, on track to shatter dozens of records along the way. And it can be deadly, with the weather blamed for three deaths this week.

"The coldest air in a generation is sinking south, with below-zero temperatures already in the Upper Midwest," CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said Tuesday. "And the worst yet to come."

The bitter weather has also snarled travel in even the hardiest cities. More than 2,000 flights involving US airports are canceled for Tuesday and Wednesday, including more than 1,000 in and out of Chicago airports, according to FlightAware.com.

Millions of Americans grappling with the cold would be better off warming up in parts of Antarctica.

Chicago could reach a record low temperature of 27 below zero by Thursday morning. The city's daytime high on Wednesday might only reach 15 below zero.

Compare that to the relative warmth of Priestley Glacier, Antarctica, which will have a Wednesday high temperature of 6 degrees Fahrenheit and a low of 7 below zero.

While Hennen said Chicago will be "the epicenter of the extreme cold," its misery will have plenty of company.

Temperatures will plunge to 20-40 degrees below zero between Tuesday and Thursday in the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes, Hennen said.

Roughly 212 million, or 72% of the continental US population, will see temperatures drop below freezing over the next few days. And more than 83 million Americans -- about 25% of the US population -- will suffer subzero temperatures sometime between Wednesday and Monday.

Beware of life-threatening wind chills

The only numbers more shocking than the temperatures are the wind chills.

Wind chills will plummet to 30-70 degrees below zero this week in parts of the northern Plains and Great Lakes region, Hennen said.

In northern Minnesota they were forecast to drop to 65-70 degrees below zero, which would rival the coldest wind chill ever recorded in the state (71 below) in 1982.

Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker declared a state of emergency, saying even a brief time outside with exposed skin can be life-threatening.

"There is a real risk of hypothermia and frostbite," Pritzker said Tuesday. "Even five minutes of exposure can have very severe health consequences."

Chicago might stay below zero from Tuesday all the way until midday Friday, Hennen said.

At least 3 deaths are linked to weather

Authorities are urging people to bundle up, stay inside and check up on the elderly and vulnerable.

But already, at least three deaths have been attributed to the extreme cold.

The latest storm-related fatality was a 55-year-old man who was found dead Tuesday in the detached garage of his Milwaukee home. The man apparently collapsed after shoveling snow, according to the medical examiner's office.

On Sunday, a man in Rochester, Minnesota, was found dead outside the home where he was staying with a relative.

Ali Alfred Gombo, 22, didn't have keys to the home and was unable to enter after being dropped off outside early Sunday morning, CNN affiliate KIMT reported. The single-digit temperatures that dipped below zero may have played a role in his death, Rochester police said.

And in Illinois, a man was killed Monday "after a roadway crash involving a village plow truck and a pedestrian," Libertyville police said.

The plow truck driver has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the results of an investigation, police said.

States accustomed to snow make emergency declarations

You know it's bad when northern states like Michigan and Wisconsin declare emergencies.

"Such widespread, extreme conditions have not occurred in Michigan for many years, and it is imperative that we are proactive with record-low temperatures being predicted by the National Weather Service," Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers also declared a state of emergency, as some school districts -- including Milwaukee Public Schools -- are closed Tuesday.

"I want to make sure all state assets are available, including Wisconsin National Guard if needed, to help communities across the state and keep people warm and safe," Evers tweeted.

What about the Super Bowl?

In Atlanta, where the New England Patriots are set to face the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl on Sunday, temperatures are plunging Tuesday.

Georgia state offices are closed, and Atlanta will have emergency warming centers running from Tuesday until Thursday morning.

But despite earlier predictions of up to 2 inches of snow, the latest forecasts show Atlanta won't get any accumulation.

Temperatures are expected to rebound before Sunday's kickoff at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.