Bitterly cold temperatures have hit the Midwest and Northeast on Wednesday. Winter weather watches were already placed for about 190 million people with forecasters warning of the extreme cold that could freeze exposed skin in as little as 15 minutes.
The weather conditions are not expected to mellow down in the next day either with the National Weather Service (NWS) forecasting that over 87 percent of the country will have below freezing temperatures by Thursday morning.
In Illinois, students in Chicago were advised to stay home as authorities decided to cancel classes in dozens of public schools on Wednesday as temperatures fell between 20 and 30 Fahrenheit below average and overnight readings anticipated to drop as low as 16 below zero. Chicago has a wind chill advisory in effect until Thursday noon. As wind chill values reach up to 30 below zero, the NWS said this could cause frostbite in minutes and increase risks of hypothermia.
"Frost bite can occur in a matter of minutes on exposed skin," the NWS warned. "Extended exposure without proper clothing will increase the risk of hypothermia."
Indiana likewise cancelled classes for Indianapolis Public Schools, which is among the state's biggest school districts. Similar school closings also occurred in the state's northern half, where a wind chill warning had also been placed.
Wisconsin and Minnesota likewise had numerous class cancellations to protect the children from the dangerously cold temperatures. The hazardous driving conditions brought about by the weather, on the other hand, has claimed five lives in Michigan over the weekend.
Those in the Northeast were likewise warned of the brutally cold temperature that gets colder. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has already advised people in the country's largest city to make the necessary preparations as temperatures are anticipated to get dangerously cold starting Tuesday through Thursday.
"If you can avoid traveling on our roads and stay indoors, do so. If you must go outside, dress warmly and take extreme precaution," the mayor said in a statement. "If you see someone who looks like they may be at increased risk, report it immediately."
In Connecticut, officials asked those who are in need of shelter to contact the 211 hotline as the state prepares for an icy blast. An activated protocol for the cold weather instructs state agencies to work hand in hand with the network of shelters and the hotline to ensure that the most vulnerable of the residents get protection from the cold.