Polar vortex brings coldest air in a generation

By Meg Wagner, Brian Ries, Amanda Wills and Veronica Rocha, CNN
8:01 a.m. ET, February 1, 2019
7:09 p.m. ET, January 31, 2019

At least 16 dead from extreme weather

From CNN's Marlena Baldacci

The marsh around Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts remains frozen Thursday due to extreme cold and ice conditions.

At least 16 deaths have been linked to this week's extreme weather.

The deaths were reported across Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Indiana since the weekend.

In Iowa, at least four weather-related deaths were reported Thursday, Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Nathan Ludwig told CNN.

6:28 p.m. ET, January 31, 2019

Nearly 50 frostbite victims have been treated at this Chicago hospital

From CNN's Dave Alsup

Almost 50 frostbite victims were treated at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital in Chicago over the last two days.

"It’s a horrific situation," said Dr. Stathis Poulakidas, the head of Burn and Wound Care Services at Cook County Health.

Poulakidas said they’ve seen “horrific injuries to feet and hands” due to Chicago’s brutally cold temperatures. Some of the injuries were so severe that some patients may lose limbs.

Doctors tried to use “alternative services” to save limbs on 12 patients in the last 24 hours.

Frostbite in these extreme conditions can set in three to 10 minutes depending on age, exposure and other factors like wet gloves and socks, or even alcohol consumption, Poulakidas said. The victims included a mix of the homeless and people working outdoors. 

Doctors also saw patients who suffered burns and smoke inhalation from space heaters or moved grills indoors for warmth, Poulakidas said.

Noreen Keeney, spokesperson for Cook County Health, said that even as temperatures begin to rise on Friday, they are expecting an uptick in frostbite cases of people who put off medical treatment.  

5:55 p.m. ET, January 31, 2019

Zebra dies in subzero temperatures at private Indiana farm

From CNN's Janet DiGiacomo

A zebra on a private farm near Delphi, Indiana, died as a result of the bitter cold and extreme weather blasting the Midwest, sheriff’s officials said. 

The zebra got stuck in a metal fence, and died as it tried to free itself in the arctic air, Carroll County Sheriff Tobe Leazenby said.

After consulting with a veterinarian, the sheriff said he and the department learned the cold air likely crystalized in the zebra’s lungs, which led to its death. Leazenby said the temperature at the time of the incident was between 10 and 15 below zero. 

The private farm houses other animals, including another zebra, the sheriff said. No other animals were harmed by the cold temperatures.

5:55 p.m. ET, January 31, 2019

Hang on, folks: The brutal cold is almost over for most of us

A woman walks on a pedestrian bridge with her face covered to protect from the cold on Jan. 31, 2019 in New York City.

The National Weather service says the life-threatening cold that has gripped the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes, in addition to the Ohio Valley, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast is near an end. 

By Friday, temperatures in the Upper Midwest will finally rebound to well above zero --with high temperatures making it to the teens and low 20s.

By Saturday, high temperatures will be in the 30s and 40s. 

2:03 p.m. ET, January 31, 2019

Yesterday marked the second coldest noon in Chicago history

Chicago had a brutally cold Wednesday.

It was 18 degrees below zero at noon — the second coldest noon ever recorded in the city. The record is still 1982, when it was 21 degrees below zero.

The day's lowest temperature was 23 degrees below zero. That marked the coldest temperature since the all-time record of 27 degrees below zero in 1985.

Here's a look at some of the other records from Chicago, per the National Weather Service:

12:44 p.m. ET, January 31, 2019

More than 6,000 flights have been canceled since the freeze started

From CNN's Dave Hennen

Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport grounds crews deice an airplane prior to takeoff on Wednesday in Bloomington, Minnesota.

The cold and snow have taken a toll on the airlines. 

Nearly 6,400 flights have been canceled in and out of the US, since the snow and cold began on Tuesday, according to flightaware.com.

Chicago airports have been particularly hard hit, with more than 4,100 cancellations reported in and out of O’Hare and Midway airports over the last three days.

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

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

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.