The icy weather is beginning to lose its grip, however, and forecasters say temperatures will rise through the weekend, reaching near 50F (10C) in some parts of the Midwest.
Donegan, the meteorologist at The Weather Channel, said the "mild pattern is not expected to be prolonged" for some parts of the country.
In Chicago, one anonymous donor went viral for picking up the hotel tab for 70 people experiencing homelessness after they were evacuated from a tent city at risk of exploding propane tanks, according to the Chicago Tribune. Across the US Midwest, the sudden warmth was sure to bring more broken roads and busted water mains.
Temperatures fell to as low as minus 56 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 49 Celsius).
"While an arctic air mass sits over the region today, an upper level disturbance passing south of the area could produce a few flurries, mainly from Long Island to New York City", according to the National Weather Service.
"It's got to be an nearly 50 degree difference, it feels like spring", said one commuter heading home from Chicago's downtown financial district, wearing only a sweatshirt. The eighteen-year-old was found unresponsive on campus early Wednesday morning just a short walk from his dorm, according to university officials.
Authorities say one person has died on Interstate 70 in central in after a crash involving a salt truck.
Temperatures are forecast to rise in the coming days, with highs reaching the 50s in IN on Sunday.
Earlier on Thursday, several cities set record lows.
"In the handsome Midwest, windchill temperatures are reaching minus 60 degrees, the coldest ever recorded". They were not exaggerating: Going gloveless for only a minute or two, in double-digit negative temperatures, left hands feeling numb, then clumsy and flipper-like, then white-hot with pain.
He warned that "below-average temperatures might return to the Midwest and Northeast next week", but added, "The good news is that it likely won't be as harsh as this week's arctic blast". " ... For Chicago, we're accustomed to things getting cold". Mail service won't be restored in MI until February 1, officials said. At Midway International Airport, 258 flights were canceled.
Amtrak restored rail service to and from Chicago on Friday, and the U.S. Postal Services resumed mail delivery in six Midwest states.
All Chicago Public Schools will remain closed Thursday due to the impending freezing temps.
More than 2,300 flights were cancelled across the USA on Thursday, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware.
Metra is staying on modified schedules for most of its lines Thursday. Cedar Rapids, Iowa, set a daily record low of minus-30 degrees.
Metra trains will run on a modified scheduled. Educators in Fargo, North Dakota, were busy Thursday after two days of cancelled classes.
Power issues drastically subsided by Thursday as well, with only 155 ComEd customers reporting no power about noon, according to the electric company's power outage map.
But he said it was still "fortunate" that cities like Toronto, where homeless shelters have been stretched for resources in recent months, did not see any cold-related deaths among its most vulnerable citizens.
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