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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10:34 a.m. ET, January 30, 2019

A wall of steam is surrounding Chicago's freezing Lake Michigan

From CNN's Gianluca Mezzofiore and Judson Jones

Susana Leyva took video of steam coming off of Chicago's Lake Michigan this morning. The fog formed a virtual wall around the water.

Why this is happening: Steam can come off the lakes when the water — or the ice — is warmer than the cold air above it.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration explains it like this: "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."

Take a look:

10:19 a.m. ET, January 30, 2019

There are 7 runners in Minnesota trying to finish an ultramarathon in the insane cold

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

Arrowhead 135
Arrowhead 135

It's -35 degrees, in Tower, Minnesota, the finish line for the Arrowhead 135. The windchill is -52.

Despite the absurd cold, some of the runners still finished the race. Some of them crossed the finish line with faces completely encased in ice. Seven runners are still on the course.

"It's not for the average person, that's for sure," Arrowhead 135 race director Ken Krueger told CNN.

Krueger said people from all over the world travel to compete in it. There wasn't even a discussion to postpone or cancel the race because of the polar temperatures.

"They know it's a tough race and honestly people want a tough race," Krueger says. "People want the bragging rights about finishing in the tough years."

Here's a look at some of the participants this morning:

More about the race: Runners start in International Falls, Minnesota, and make a 135-mile slog to the finish at the Fortune Bay Casino in Tower, Minnesota. They can either run, bike, ski or kick sled.

They're equipped with mandatory survival gear and are encouraged to self-rescue —there's only three checkpoints in the race. Krueger says only one racer has quit because of frostbite.  

Today is the final day of the race; participants have until 7:00 p.m. to finish.

The ultra-marathon is grueling, and most racers do not finish. If the final seven runners still on the course finish, that'll mean 13 of 64 runners that started will finish.

None of the skiers or kick sledders finished. Of the bikers, only 39 out of 75 finished.  

To track the final seven participants progress, click here.

9:36 a.m. ET, January 30, 2019

If you're in Minnesota, beware of near-instant frostbite

From CNN's Faith Karimi and Steve Almasy

A bicyclist passes through heavy frost in Nokomis parkway, south west Minneapolis, as temperatures in the area dipped below freezing on Tuesday.
A bicyclist passes through heavy frost in Nokomis parkway, south west Minneapolis, as temperatures in the area dipped below freezing on Tuesday. KEREM YUCEL/AFP/Getty Images

In Minnesota, blustery weather could mean wind chills approaching -70. In Ponsford, the wind chill was -66, CNN meteorologist Michael Guy said.

It's so cold, the National Weather Service warned that frostbite could set in in just minutes.

CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen described it as the "coldest air in a generation." Temperatures will plunge to 20-40 degrees below zero between Tuesday and Thursday in the Upper Midwest, Hennen said.

In northern Minnesota, wind chills 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.

9:23 a.m. ET, January 30, 2019

What it looked like to drive on a Minnesota interstate

Sgt. Jesse Grabow, a public information officer in Minnesota, recorded dash-cam video of road conditions on I-94 yesterday.

This footage was shot about 10 miles east of Moorhead, Minnesota:

8:50 a.m. ET, January 30, 2019

It's so cold, the US Postal Service won't deliver mail to parts of the Midwest

A postal worker walks through the falling snow while delivering mail on March 21, 2018. Mail service has been suspended today in parts of the Midwest.
A postal worker walks through the falling snow while delivering mail on March 21, 2018. Mail service has been suspended today in parts of the Midwest. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

Snow, rain, heat, gloom and night may not stop United States Postal Service workers from getting out the mail — but this Arctic freeze will.

USPS is suspending service in parts of the Midwest today because of the cold.

Parts of the following states are affected:

  • Michigan
  • Indiana
  • Wisconsin
  • Illinois
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Nebraska
  • Iowa
8:20 a.m. ET, January 30, 2019

More than 1,900 flights have already been canceled

As the dipping polar vortex brings insanely cold weather to the Midwest and Northeast, at least 1,944 flights within, into or out of the US have already been canceled this morning, according to FlightAware.

Another 375 flights have been delayed.

Here is FlightAware's look at where the delays are the worst this morning:

7:59 a.m. ET, January 30, 2019

It's cold in the Midwest this morning — and some parts are going to get colder

From CNN's Dave Hennen

It’s brutally cold this morning in many Midwest cities.

  • Minneapolis is currently -28 with a wind chill of -54
  • Chicago is -22 with a -49 wind chill.
  • Wind chills in Northern Minnesota are 60-65 below zero.

It's going to stay cold: Temperatures in both Minneapolis and Chicago will stay at around 15 below zero today.

And it's going to get colder: Chicago will see its coldest readings tonight, and will likely be very close to their coldest reading ever of 27 below zero. It will be even colder in parts of Northern Illinois, where the all time state record could be broken.

Several dozen records are likely to occur today and tonight over a wide area from International Falls, Minnesota, to Washington and New York City, where temperatures will drop to the single digits.

5:12 p.m. ET, January 29, 2019

Blizzard warnings are in effect until 7 a.m. ET for parts of Michigan

The National Weather Service says blizzard warnings are in effect for parts of Michigan's Upper Peninsula until 7 a.m. ET Thursday.

Blizzard conditions are expected to develop late today  into this evening and continue into Wednesday. Additional snow accumulations will range from 5 inches near Trenary to as much as 14 inches along the M-28 corridor from Deerton through Munising to Shingleton and Seney. Winds gusting as high as 40 mph along the M-28 corridor from this evening through Wednesday will cause blizzard conditions in snow and blowing snow.

If you're in the area, note that while snow storms are often referred to as blizzards, that's not entirely accurate. Watch this video to understand which weather conditions must occur before a snow storm can technically be called a blizzard.