News / USA

    US Midwest Copes with Deep Freeze

    The extreme cold weather creates vapor that is seen over Lake Michigan. (Courtesy Photo: Veronica LaPage Skubal)
    The extreme cold weather creates vapor that is seen over Lake Michigan. (Courtesy Photo: Veronica LaPage Skubal)
    A large section of the United States is under a deep freeze, thanks to a blast of cold, dense air moving in from the north.  The record-setting low temperatures in the Midwest United States have forced many offices, schools, and businesses to close as people are being encouraged to wait out the deep freeze, indoors at home.

    Rural Illinois resident Karen Brodbeck thought she had seen the worst cold weather during a December trip to visit her brother in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

    “They had wind chills that were negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit (-40 Celsius).  That was the coldest weather I had ever experienced in my life,” she said.

    Little did Brodbeck know that weather would follow her all the way back home to Illinois, 2,630 kilometers away, where on January 6, the wind chill was negative 45 degrees Celsius.

    “I am sure it is warmer in the North Pole or something than it is here,” she said.

    The extreme cold weather blanketed a large portion of the U.S. Midwest, forcing the closures of schools, government offices, and businesses throughout the area that have taken note of health warnings from local governments.

    • A pedestrian covers up against single digit temperatures in New York, Jan. 7, 2014.
    • Traffic backs up along I-75 due to icy conditions on pavement in Detroit, Michigan, Jan. 7, 2014.
    • Ice in the Mississippi River flows past the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, Jan. 7, 2014.
    • Isabella and Zadok Graff check on their family's beef cattle during freezing temperatures in Middletown, Illinois, Jan. 7, 2014.
    • A man is silhouetted against the arctic sea smoke rising off Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois, Jan. 6, 2014.
    • Matt Frame brushes off a Buick at Ray Laethem Buick-GMC in Detroit, Michigan, Jan. 6, 2014.
    • Commuters gather under warming lamps on one of Chicago's famous "El" lines as they experience wind chills expected to reach far below zero, Jan. 6, 2014.
    • Two pedestrians go down a street in Chicago's South Loop with temperatures well below zero, Jan. 6, 2014.
    • Time and temperature signs in Lawrence, Kansas, Jan. 6, 2014.
    • Daryl Daugherty clears the sidewalk in front of his home in Carmel, Indiana, Jan. 6, 2014.

    Brodbeck, who is the marketing and community relations director for a local medical center, says the weather has scaled back some of the operations of the center in an effort to protect patients and staff members.

    “Temperatures are dangerously low, to the point that just being outdoors just five to 10 minutes you can start to experience frostbite and symptoms of hypothermia," she said.  "So it is a very real and dangerous possibility.”

    The World's Coldest Temperatures

    • Antarctica: -89.2°C Vostok, Antarctica in 1983
    • Asia: -67.8°C Verkhoyansk, Russia in 1892 and Oimekon, Russia in 1933
    • North America: -3°C Snag, Yukon Territory, Canada in 1947
    • Europe: -58.1°C Ust'Schugor, Russia in 1978
    • South America: -32.8°C Sarmiento, Argentina in 1907
    • Africa: -23.9°C Ifrane, Morocco in 1935
    • Australia: -23°C Charlotte Pass, New South Wales, Australia in 1994

    Source: World Meteorological Organization
    The cold snap comes on the first day back to work for many who were on an extended break for the Christmas and New Year holiday.

    But according to some mass transit customers, it was not business as usual on commuter trains in the city of Chicago.

    “There was probably only 10 percent of the usual commuters this morning.  In the residential part of my neighborhood, it was like a ghost town,” said Veronica LaPage Skubal.

    But despite the widespread closures, the cold did not prevent her from reaching her office in downtown Chicago.

    “Us Chicagoans are tough, and things needed to get done today, and even the weather could not stop us, so we all came in, and actually our whole office except for one person made it in today,” she said.

    Skubal’s office overlooks Lake Michigan, providing her and her co-workers with a unique view of the Great Lake reacting to the bitter cold spell.

    “We were jokingly calling it the clouds of hell over the lake," she said. "You can see the vast lake out there, and there is just crazy steam or clouds of white smoke coming off the lake ...  I have never seen it like that.”

    It is a phenomenon that could continue for a second day as temperatures in Chicago and throughout the region remain at near-record lows before heading east. 


    Kane Farabaugh

    Kane Farabaugh is the Midwest Correspondent for Voice of America, where since 2008 he has established Voice of America's presence in the heartland of America.

    You May Like

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora