The low temperature on Wednesday in Chicago was forecast to reach -24 degrees and a high of just -15. With windchill, that low temperature could feel like -49 degrees, and forecasters said it was possible the weather could get even colder and break all-time records. Local television pictures showed the Chicago River and Lake Michigan filled with chunks of ice. Some companies can’t continue to do the normal work. Even the US Post Office planned to suspend delivery in some areas.
“This could possibly be history-making,” said Ricky Castro, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Romeoville, Illinois. Many Midwest cities opened warming shelters. Regional governments closed hundreds of schools. Airlines canceled more than 2,000 flights. With the wind chill factored in, temperatures will feel as low as minus 50F (minus 46C) through Thursday. The Chicago Zoological Society said it would shut Brookfield Zoo this week for only the fourth time in its 85-year history. In Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp shut government offices in 35 counties on Tuesday. That’s the kind of cold that can cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as five minutes. Babies, older adults, and homeless people faced particularly high risks of frostbite and hypothermia, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned anyone spending time outside to wear dry, warm clothing.