Iowa Student Among 8 Deaths Linked to Polar Vortex

Brutal cold should start to lift Thursday
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 31, 2019 5:05 AM CST
At Least 8 Deaths Linked to Polar Vortex
The Ahlstrom-Munksjo paper mill sends steam skyward during a polar vortex that brought extremely cold temperatures and dangerous wind chill temperatures on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019, in Kaukauna, Wis.   (Wm. Glasheen/The Post-Crescent via AP)

The bitterly cold weather gripping much of the US has been linked to at least eight deaths, including that of an 18-year-old University of Iowa student. Campus police found pre-medicine major Gerard Belz unresponsive behind a building around 3am Wednesday, when the wind chill was -51 Fahrenheit; he died in the hospital, KCRG reports. His relatives say no alcohol was found in his system. WJBC reports that in Tazewell County, Illinois, an 82-year-old man died of exposure after apparently falling while trying to get into his home Tuesday morning. There were at least two deaths in Michigan, including that of a former city councilman in Ecorse who was found frozen to death outside a neighbor's home wearing only sleepwear, the Telegraph reports.

Other deaths linked to the polar vortex include a Milwaukee man who froze to death in a garage and a Chicago-area man who was hit by a snowplow, the AP reports. Forecasters say the brutal polar vortex weather system will begin to lift Thursday, with temperatures rising into single digits in much of the Midwest—but Chicago and other areas could still see record-breaking lows early in the day. As the deep freeze hit Wednesday, thousands of flights were canceled and cities including Chicago resembled ghost towns, the New York Times reports. In Minneapolis, where the wind chill was as low as -53, doctors at the Hennepin County Medical Center said they were busier than usual, with at least 13 frostbite cases and many other weather-related cases, but it was "not a mass casualty incident." (Even the US Postal Service canceled deliveries in many areas.)

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