Polar vortex `just sort of evaporates' and US Midwest warms up

Dark arrows indicate rotation of the polar vortex in the Arctic light arrows indicate the location of the polar jet stream

Life-threatening deep freeze envelops American Midwest

Tens of millions of Americans braved Arctic-like temperatures on Thursday as low as minus 56 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 49 Celsius) that paralyzed the US Midwest and were blamed for at least 21 deaths during the polar vortex.

Some areas of the Midwest were expected to warm up dramatically by the weekend.

"This morning is some of the coldest of the temperatures across the upper Midwest, and we still have some risky wind chills", said Andrew Orrison, a National Weather Service forecaster.

Temperatures in the Upper Midwest will rebound to well above zero F (minus 18 C) on Friday, with highs making it into the teens and low 20s F. By Saturday, highs will be in the 30s and even low 40s F, while the central Plains will be in the low 60s F, almost 20 to 25 degrees above normal, the weather service said.

The brutally cold weather was so intense Thursday, at least 11 states in the continental United States hit a temperature lower than the one recorded in Alaska's northernmost city. The extreme cold was "a scary situation", because much of the housing is of poor quality, said Chris Fairbanks, energy assistance program manager for the White Earth Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota.

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"If you're asking if a cold storm can come to Utah, if it has origins of the cold air at the pole, or, in essence, the Arctic - yes".

Wintry conditions could also return to some parts of the Midwest and Northeast next week, though it likely won't be as cold as during the polar vortex.

In Minnesota and upper MI, temperatures were at minus 20 on January 31 and parts of North Dakota had temperatures of minus 30.

Back in the Midwest, the bitter cold set all-time records in some states. The lowest was minus 40 degrees in International Falls, Minnesota. "They are life-threatening conditions and temperatures". Some died in weather-related traffic accidents, others from apparent exposure to the elements. Authorities said the body of Gerald Belz was found behind an academic hall just before 3am on Wednesday by campus police.

That will be about 125 degrees in temperature change over the next seven days, it said. "People can't last outside even for minutes".

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Amtrak restored rail service to and from Chicago on Friday, and the U.S. Postal Services resumed mail delivery in six Midwest states after suspending it for days. Mail service won't be restored in MI until February 1, officials said.

Videos this week showed boiling water freezing as it was tossed in the air in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and transit workers in Chicago setting fire to train tracks to keep them from locking up.

Even parts of the South, such as the mountains of Kentucky, Tennessee and upper Georgia, would be in the single digits, he said.

More than 2,500 flights were cancelled and more than 3,500 delayed yesterday morning, majority out of Chicago's O'Hare International and Midway International airports.

In Detroit, General Motors Co suspended operations at 11 MI plants to cut natural gas consumption.

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