Chicago weather forecast: NEW SNOW alert – 20k without power, historic wind chill -60C

Hundreds of schools are closed across the Chicago area, more than 2,000 flights have been cancelled and train services suspended as the city battles a historic cold. The United States Postal Service temporarily set aside its mantra of carrying mail regardless of “snow nor rain … nor gloom of night,” and halted deliveries from parts of the Dakotas through Ohio today. Most federal offices in Washington DC had to open three hours late due to the freezing weather already impacting the area.

The forecasted high for Chicago on Wednesday is just -15C, whilst current predictions see the wind chill plunging to between -40C and -60C.

Temperatures in parts of the Northern Plains and Great Lakes plunged to as low minus 42 Fahrenheit (minus 41 Celsius) in Park Rapids, Minnesota, and minus 31F in Fargo, North Dakota, according to the National Weather Service.

The bitter cold was caused by a displacement of the polar vortex, a stream of air that normally spins around the stratosphere over the North Pole, but whose current was disrupted and was now pushing south.

More than 20,000 customers were without power across the Chicago area, according to electricity utility ComEd.

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Those who had no power included 8,233 in Cook County, 4,272 in Will County, 3,209 in DeKalb County and 1,978 in McHenry County, plus hundreds more across the region.

Now there are still more than 7,000 without power as ComEd work to restore energy to their customers.

Later tomorrow afternoon and evening, snow will begin to accumulate across Chicago according to NBC Storm Team meteorologist Andy Avalos.

By the late evening, local time snow will be falling heavily and steadily, before slowing down on Friday to flurries.

National Weather Service meteorologist Andrew Orrison, said the some of the coldest wind chills were recorded in International Falls, Minnesota, at minus 55F (minus 48C).

Even the South Pole in Antarctica was warmer, with an expected low of minus 24F (minus 31C) with wind chill.

Officials opened warming centres across the region, and in Chicago, police stations were open to anyone seeking refuge from the cold.

Read More: Chicago weather: ‘People will DIE’ as flesh FREEZES in five minutes

Five city buses were also deployed to serve as mobile warming centres for homeless people.

The Chicago Police Department said that at most, it could encourage people to get out of the cold.

“But we will never force someone,” police officer Michael Carroll said.

At least five deaths relating to cold weather have been reported since Saturday in Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota, local media reports said.