Death Toll Climbs to 21 as Polar Vortex Gives Way to 'Spring-Like' Temperatures This Weekend
Detroit, which clocked in at -14 on Thursday, a 99-year record low, could hit 45 degrees on Sunday and 50 degrees on Monday
Plummeting temperatures across the country have claimed at least 21 lives since the beginning of this week — but the weather-related danger won’t necessarily subside as soon as things warm up.
According to The New York Times, dozens of people have been hospitalized across the country for symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite sustained as a result of the bitter cold.
Among the dead are an 18-year-old University of Iowa student; four men found frozen in Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan; six Iowans who died in car crashes; a pedestrian hit by a snowplow in Illinois; and a woman found frozen in her apartment in Milwaukee after a “thermostat malfunction,” the Times reports.
Millions of other lives have been disrupted because of the temperatures, which have broken at least 160 records in the Midwest and Northeast in the past two days alone, according to USA Today. In these regions, school and business closures, canceled flights and closed roads became standard this week. In nine states, mail delivery has stopped.
While temperatures in much of Midwest (including Minneapolis and Chicago) and Northeast (including Buffalo and Vermont) were hovering around zero degrees Fahrenheit, the weather is expected to warm up during the weekend.
Detroit, which clocked in at -14 on Thursday, a 99-year record low, could hit 45 degrees on Sunday and 50 degrees Monday. Chicago, which was -23 on Wednesday morning, may warm up to 52 by Monday.
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This time of year, “I don’t think there’s ever been a case where we’ve seen [such a big] shift in temperatures,” Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the Weather Underground, told USA Today. “Past record-cold waves have not dissipated this quickly … Here we are going right into spring-like temperatures.”
It’s not all good news, however.
The drastic switch — as much as an 80-degree change in some cities, according to Fox News — could cause water main breaks and overflowing rivers. The massive amount of snow and ice melting so rapidly could lead to “dangerous flooding,” FEMA Michigan warned, according to the Detroit Free Press.
“It’s important for individuals to monitor their local forecast closely and always heed the direction of local officials to stay safe when hazardous weather conditions exist,” said James Joseph, FEMA Region V administrator.
Still, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, this January has yielded twice as many record highs as record lows, USA Today reports.