At least eight people — including a college student and Indiana police officer — are dead as a result of the bitter, record-breaking deep freeze brought on by the polar vortex that’s slammed the Midwest most of the week.
Though the National Weather Service said temperatures will “slowly begin to moderate,” the bone-chilling cold on Thursday still shuttered schools and caused the U.S. Postal Service to suspend mail delivery in several states. Wind chills of negative 45 degrees Fahrenheit were reported Thursday morning in International Falls, Minnesota and minus 23 degrees in Minneapolis. Des Moines, Iowa reported a bitterly cold wind chill of minus 25 degrees and Chicago had a wind chill of negative 41 degrees just before sunrise.
“The intense cold and wind that has gripped the Midwest, Great Lakes, and Ohio River Valley will begin moderating later this afternoon and evening,” Fox News Senior Meteorologist Janice Dean said Thursday. “Wind chill warnings remain in effect through the afternoon.”
Temperatures on Friday and into the weekend will “rise considerably” in the Midwest, giving the region some relief, according to Dean. The blast of polar air that enveloped much of the Midwest from Tuesday through Thursday snapped rail lines, canceled hundreds of flights and strained utilities — and led to at least 8 deaths across the region.
Here are the victims so far of Polar Vortex 2019:
University of Iowa student Gerald Belz
A pre-med student at the University of Iowa was found behind an academic building on the Iowa City campus just before 3 a.m. by campus police on Wednesday died after he was rushed to the hospital.
Gerald Belz, 18, was found in a building located across the street from the Iowa Memorial Union, CBS2/FOX28 reported.
Police haven’t released a cause of death but believed the frigid temperatures played a role. Wind chill at the time police found Belz was minus 51 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
Belz’s father, Michael, told CBS2/FOX 28 that authorities told them that “zero alcohol was found in his system.”
He also told KCCI-TV that his son, who graduated from Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School, wanted to be a cardiologist.
“I want people to remember him as a compassionate person,” Michael Belz told KCCI. “He had many more friends than I was aware of. He didn’t bring many friends over to the house, but we knew he had lots of friends.”
Former Ecorse City Councilman Gary Sammons
A former city council member in Michigan was found dead Wednesday, and authorities believe his death is related to exposure to the elements.
Gary Sammons, 70, was found in front of his home in Ecorse, located south of Detroit.
Police told FOX2 Sammons may have fallen and was unable to get up or get back inside. Neighbor Jeneane McQueen told FOX2 that Sammons had some knee issues and would be very slow and careful when walking outside.
“Mr. Sammons was a good neighbor, he was caring,” McQueen told the television station. “I saw somone laying down and I was just like oh my god, it’s so cold out here, it was 35 below out here this morning.”
Man found dead in Detroit wearing only underwear
The frozen body of a 70-year-old man was discovered Wednesday morning in Detroit, where temperatures dipped to negative 6 degrees.
Detroit Police had received a call around 2 a.m. Wednesday on a missing person, but were unable to find the man at the time, FOX2 reported. The man, who was only wearing underwear at the time and was not identified, was discovered about six hours later, police said.
Family members reported the man had medical issues but did not specify what those are, according to FOX2. Police do not suspect foul play in the man’s death.
Charley Lampley discovered frozen in garage
A 55-year-old man was found frozen in a garage in Wisconsin on Tuesday as the bitter cold set in.
The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office told FOX6 that Charley Lampley collapsed and died after shoveling snow at his home in Milwaukee.
Lampley was found frozen in a detached garage near a snow shovel and had appeared to have had been outside overnight. The garage door was open, and the medical examiner noted Lampley was fully clothed and dressed for the weather. The preliminary manner of death was ruled “natural,” according to FOX6.
Illinois man dead after fall
An 82-year-old central Illinois man died in the cold weather after authorities say he was found several hours after he fell trying to get into his home.
Peoria County Coroner Jamie Harwood told the Peoria Journal Star that a neighbor found the Marquette Heights man Tuesday afternoon and called 911. Harwood says his office was called to a Peoria hospital, where the man was pronounced dead later Tuesday.
The man’s cause of death was related to cold exposure. He wasn’t immediately identified pending notification of family.
Illinois man killed by snow plow
An Illinois man was struck and killed by a village snow plow as he was working hard to clear his own driveway Monday morning, police said.
The traffic crash occurred on Bridle Court in Libertyville — a Chicago suburb — around 9:50 a.m., Libertyville police confirmed in a news release. The man, who has not yet been identified, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Indiana police officer, wife killed in crash
A crash on a snow- and ice-covered road in rural northern Indiana killed a police officer and his wife Monday
The Noble County Sheriff’s Office said that 22-year-old Ligonier Police Officer Ethan Kiser’s SUV spun into the path of another SUV near Cromwell, killing him and 21-year-old wife Shawna Kiser.
The crash happened after snow hit the area and ahead of the onslaught of the polar vortex
Fox News’ Stephen Sorace, Jennifer Earl and the Associated Press contributed to this report.