Snow pummels Midwest as millions prepare for life-threatening cold

Polar vortex to bring ‘brutal cold’ to Upper Midwest by midweek

Both the University of Iowa and the University of Notre Dame in IN canceled classes through Thursday.

Officials in Chicago, which has the nation's third-largest school system, said classes would be canceled for all 360,000 students on Wednesday due to the severe weather.

"Many students, they might have two working parents, so staying home might mean they're not supervised", Collins said.

Thursday Night: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 37. Even if the record is not broken, the National Weather Service in Chicago is calling this week's forecast "life-threatening extreme cold" that "can lead to rapid onset of frostbite and hypothermia". In Minnesota, temperatures on Wednesday could fall to 30 degrees below zero but feel as cold as 60 below because of the wind chill, said meteorologist Tyler Hasenstein. With dangerously low temperatures rolling in, and wind chill temps reaching about negative 50 degrees, anyone outside risks getting frostbite, reports CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds. Dozens of cities have forecasts at least within one degree of record cold temperatures, including Chicago; Des Moines, Iowa; Cleveland; Detroit and Minneapolis.

"If you live up in the Arctic Circle, you'd say this is pretty normal". That split the polar vortex into pieces, which then started to wander, according to Judah Cohen, a winter storm expert for Atmospheric Environmental Research, a commercial firm outside Boston.

What is a polar vortex?

Hundreds of schools in the region cancelled classes through Wednesday, and the governors of Wisconsin and MI declared states of emergency amid wind chills as low as negative 60 degrees (negative 51 Celsius).

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The bitter cold is prompting emergency warming shelters to be set up across the Midwest to the Northeast for those in need.

In Wisconsin, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele has declared a local snow emergency.

He said ambulance crews were handling all outside response incidents as being potentially life-threatening. He also urged residents to check on their neighbors and take safety precautions.

So where will the bone-chilling weather hit and how long it will last?

Up to 60cm of snow is forecast across parts of Wisconsin and IL.

Accumulating snowfall will likely be confined to areas outside of Interstate 495, particularly the hills of Worcester County, southern New Hampshire, the Berkshires and up into central and northern New England. "Heavy snow overnight and blowing and drifting snow are making for some tough conditions", Minnesota Department of Transportation spokesman Kevin Gutknecht told the Associated Press.

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