Here Are the Wildest Photos of the Polar Vortex Rocking Chicago

Temperatures have dropped below -20, which feels more like -40 with wind chill.
January 31, 2019, 6:12pm
Chicago's skyline frozen due to the polar vortex of January 2019.
Photo by Scott Olson / Getty

A polar vortex swept through the Midwest this week, bringing with it historic low temperatures in some areas. Chicago, which was particularly hard-hit, dropped below -20 degrees on Thursday, with wind chill bringing temperatures down into the blistering -40s.

The cold snap has claimed the lives of at least eight people and a zebra, and shut down mail service in several states. More than 1,000 flights have been delayed and more than 2,000 have been canceled into and out of the US Thursday, according to FlightAware. The New York Times reports that number topped 2,700 on Wednesday. At least 7,000 people lost power thanks to frozen gas pipes, which also spawned this wild, rambling op-ed in the Chicago Tribune.


It's pretty clear that it's cold as shit in Chicago—but what does it actually look like out there?

It's so cold that commuter rail tracks are being set on fire to make them usable.

It's so cold that the city is experiencing "frost quakes," CNN reports. That's when it's so frigid, underground water freezes and expands, cracking the rock and dirt upon which the city is built, leading to what sound like small explosions.

It's so cold that area noodle enthusiast James David says his bowl of spaghetti transformed into this surrealist sculpture in 60 seconds after he brought it onto the balcony of his 17th floor apartment on Wednesday. "The cold dry air pulled the moisture and heat away from my body so quickly that frost and ice formed on my eyelashes pretty instantly. Something I've never experienced in my life," he told VICE. "There's really no good reason to be outside."

A bowl of noodles froze solid in Chicago during the January 2019 polar vortex.

Image courtesy James David

With their city frozen to a near standstill, Chicagoans like David have spent their time documenting the icy tundra that used to be Lake Michigan and the frigid stalagmites of their skyline.

Ice covers a tree in Chicago.

Image courtesy @kellyjustic

Mercifully, forecasters predict temperatures will shoot upwards of 40 degrees by the end of the week—but in the meantime, Chicago has basically been reduced to a real-life Hoth.

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