Polar vortex brings coldest air in a generation

By Meg Wagner, Brian Ries, Amanda Wills and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 9:53 a.m. ET, June 14, 2019
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12:26 p.m. ET, January 31, 2019

This is what it looks like after you've fought a fire in a wind chill of minus 50

From CNN's Gianluca Mezzofiore

Bimbo Gifford
Bimbo Gifford

It's insanely cold in Wisconsin -- and it's about to get even colder -- but that's not stopping firefighters from doing their duty.

Cameron Fire Department Chief Mitch Hansen was pictured with a frozen beard and after battling a house fire in minus 50 wind chills Wednesday. "The fire gutted the home but everybody got out safe. We saved what items we could for them," Tony Paulson, one of the firefighters, told CNN.

"There was minus 50 wind chills. You're pretty much froze stiff on the outside but warm on the inside."

Assistant Chief Bimbo Gifford, who took the picture of Hansen, said he's been a volunteer with the department for decades and this is the first time he had to battle a fire with such freezing temperatures.

"It's tough. We're a small team of volunteers but we're careful and trained," he told CNN. "When it's that cold you just can't move."

Read more.

11:50 a.m. ET, January 31, 2019

It's 17 degrees at the Tomb of the Unknown, where the Old Guard remains on duty

From CNN's Barbara Starr

U.S. Army Spc. Jacob Plank, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard)
U.S. Army Spc. Jacob Plank, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard)

The Old Guard is on duty in the frigid temperatures outside the Tomb of the Unknown at Arlington National Cemetery.

The guard is changed every hour when the cemetery is open, Major Stephen Von Jett said. At night, the shifts vary.

"Our Soldiers have great cold weather equipment that allows them to brave these conditions, but it's their commitment to the mission, and to representing the US Army's commitment to the American people that keeps their backs straight against the wind," Von Jett said.

11:03 a.m. ET, January 31, 2019

UPS, FedEx and USPS cancel or dial back service in some of the coldest areas

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

The nation's leading mail and package delivery carriers have cancelled or suspended service in a handful of states that are most impacted by this freezing weather.

Because let's face it -- would you want to be out, walking about, handling packages when you can't feel your fingers or toes?

UPS says some zip codes in the following states are affected:

  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Iowa
  • Wisconsin
  • North Dakota
  • New York

FedEx says they are offering partial service, "dependent on local conditions," in the following states:

  • Illinois 
  • Indiana 
  • Iowa 
  • Michigan 
  • Minnesota 
  • Missouri 
  • Nebraska 
  • North Dakota 
  • Ohio 
  • South Dakota 
  • Wisconsin 

And the USPS says the following 3-digit zip code locations are affected:

  • Michigan: 486-491, 493-499
  • Indiana: 460-469, 472-475, 478, 479
  • Chicago: 606-608
  • Lakeland: 530-532, 534, 535, 537-539, 541-545, 549, 600, 602, 610, 611
  • Detroit: 480-485, 492
  • Illinois: 601, 603-605, 609, 613, 614, 616, 617, 618, 627
  • Northern Ohio (Toledo area): 436
  • Western Pennsylvania (Erie, Bradford areas): 164, 165, 167

For more information on USPS service, click here.

For more information on UPS service, click here.

For more information on FedEx service, click here.

10:39 a.m. ET, January 31, 2019

Michigan government offices closed for cold weather. Again.

The cold weather is keeping Michigan state offices closed for another day. Parts of Michigan will experience wind chills as low as -45 degrees F.

10:21 a.m. ET, January 31, 2019

GM is suspending some operations to help with natural gas shortage

The General Motors logo is seen on the world headquarters in Detroit, Michigan
The General Motors logo is seen on the world headquarters in Detroit, Michigan Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

General Motors is suspending more operations at more than a dozen manufacturing sites to help with the gas shortages at Michigan's Consumers Energy.

The shortage was caused by a fire at a compressor station in Jackson, Michigan. Consumers Energy provides natural gas and electricity to 6.6 million Michigan residents.

Operations have been suspended in 13 locations. A spokesperson for GM did not indicate if employees would be paid during the suspension.

GM operations are suspended at the following Michigan locations:

  1. Bay City Powertrain
  2. Orion Assembly
  3. Pontiac Stamping
  4. Flint Assembly
  5. Flint Stamping
  6. Flint Engine
  7. Flint Tool & Die
  8. Lansing Delta Township Assembly,
  9. Lansing Grand River Assembly
  10. Lansing Regional Stamping
  11. Lansing Grand River Stamping
  12. Saginaw Metal Casting Operations
  13. Warren Transmission
9:51 a.m. ET, January 31, 2019

At least 11 dead from extreme weather

Ice covers Lake Michigan's shoreline as temperatures dropped to -20 degrees F (-29C) on January 30, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois.
Ice covers Lake Michigan's shoreline as temperatures dropped to -20 degrees F (-29C) on January 30, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. JOSHUA LOTT/AFP/Getty Images

The record cold sweeping across the US is having deadly consequences. There have been at least 11 deaths reported.

What we know:

  • Ecorse, Michigan Police Department say they have one weather-related death. CNN affiliate WDIV reports that Gary Sammons, a former city councilman, was found frozen to death across the street from his home.
  • Wednesday morning, Detroit Police say they found a 70-year-old man frozen near his home.
  • A 9-year-old boy from Nebraska was killed Sunday in a crash in Iowa when his family's vehicle slid off Interstate 80 and into a ditch in Cass County. At the time of the accident, there was freezing rain and icy conditions on the roadways.
  • A 31-year-old man was killed Monday on Interstate 80 in Iowa when the car he was riding in crashed into a telephone pole in Polk County.
  • A 50-year-old woman was killed Monday when a semi-trailer rear-ended a car she was in on Interstate 80 in Iowa. According to Iowa State Patrol, the roads were icy at the time.
  • A University of Iowa student died Wednesday after he was found unresponsive on campus. His death is believed to be weather-related, according to the school.
  • In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the County's Medical Examiner's office told CNN that a 55-year-old man was found frozen in his garage Tuesday morning.
  • An off-duty Ligonier, Indiana, police officer and his wife were killed after their car lost control on a snowy road, hitting an oncoming car. Ethan Kiser, 22, and his wife Shawna, 21, died on Monday.
  • A man was killed on Monday morning in Libertyville, Illinois, after being struck by a plow truck and a pedestrian.
  • On Sunday morning, Rochester, Minnesota resident Ali Alfred Gombo, 22, was found dead outside his relative's home where he lived.
9:27 a.m. ET, January 31, 2019

People in Michigan asked to turn down their heat during extreme cold

In a late night news briefing on Wednesday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer pleaded with residents in the state’s lower peninsula to turn down their heat to 65 degrees until tomorrow at noon. Consumer Energy made the same request.

A fire at a Consumer Energy compressor station in Jackson, Michigan, is inhibiting utility operators' ability to deliver gas to customers.

Businesses, too, have been asked to curb natural gas usage. General Motors has suspended production for its Flint Assembly plant.

Here's the request from Consumer Energy's president and CEO:

9:08 a.m. ET, January 31, 2019

Watch steam rise off of a freezing Lake Michigan

The Windy City has become the frozen city.

CNN's Leonel Mendez took a time lapse video at sunrise showing steam rising off icy Lake Michigan.

Why the lake is steaming: Steam can rise off a lake when the water is warmer than the cold air above it. Here's how NASA describes it: "As cold, dry air moved over the lakes, it mixed with warmer, moister air rising off the lake surfaces, transforming the water vapor into fog — a phenomenon known as steam fog."

Watch the video:

8:54 a.m. ET, January 31, 2019

Today's the last day of extreme cold, and it's going to warm up quickly

From CNN's Dave Hennen

The Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, where the Super Bowl will be played on Sunday.
The Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, where the Super Bowl will be played on Sunday. Justin Heiman/Getty Images

Today is the last of the extreme cold air, and temperatures are expected to rebound quickly over much of the area that saw the extreme cold.

For example:

  • Chicago will see a temperature rise of nearly 75 degrees from extreme cold of -20 to -25 below to a forecast of low 50s and rain on Monday.
  • Atlanta, which dropped down into the 20s will see low 60s for the Super Bowl on Sunday.