What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Arctic weather enveloping Midwest blamed for at least 8 deaths

Temperatures in the Midwest plunged below those at the South Pole Wednesday, falling as far as negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit, even before accounting for windchill. As a result of the frigid conditions, hundreds of schools and businesses are closed, and homeless shelters are filled with people seeking refuge. At least eight deaths are blamed on the arctic weather. Judy Woodruff has more.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    This has been a day for the record books. It was colder in parts of the American Midwest today than it was at the South Pole. The arctic assault claimed at least seven lives and disrupted planes, trains, automobiles, and just about everything else.

    Visions of a frozen world. A wall of steam rose off Lake Michigan in Chicago this morning. Rivers in the Windy City and Detroit froze to sheets of ice. And in Milwaukee, subzero readouts at a landmark clock tower were topped by flags standing at attention in winds that sent chills down to minus-43.

    Human skin can freeze within 15 minutes in minus-25, as Michigan's governor warned today.

  • Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, D-Mich.:

    It's not just the person who is risking it by getting outside. It is other people that — our first-responders who may have to show up on the scene. And so it's important that people understand the magnitude of the issue.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All across the Midwest, windchills hit record lows today, from 70 below in parts of Minnesota, to 57 below in Northern Illinois, to 40 below in Michigan.

    Hundreds of schools and businesses closed. Homeless shelters from Minnesota to Michigan filled up with people seeking refuge, including one native of Hawaii.

  • Charles Henry:

    That windchill out there is not even a joke. I feel sorry for anybody that has to stay outside.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Officials in Chicago even turned buses into mobile warming centers.

  • Rich Guidice:

    If somebody's there that doesn't want to come to a city facility, again, the city will come to you, and they can come on the bus and warm themselves up.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The cold took its toll in other ways as well. More than 1,600 flights from Chicago's airports were canceled, and Amtrak stopped all trains in and out of the city. Minnesota pulled snowplows off the road in some places, saying drivers could freeze to death if their plows broke down.

    And the U.S. Postal Service suspended some or all delivery in 10 states. But some people had to brave the brutal conditions regardless. Firefighters in Hammond, Indiana, battled a house fire in windchills of minus-50. And power crews tended to damaged and downed lines.

  • Man:

    It's way too cold outside.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Others got creative, as in this Facebook animation from a school superintendent in South Dakota.

  • Man:

    I'm not a cold dog. I'm a hot dog. You can't have school. It's too cold outside.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But never too cold, apparently, for the Arrowhead 135 endurance race in Northeastern Minnesota. Thirteen hardy souls finished the three-day bike, ski and run today.

    Three days.

Listen to this Segment