The polar vortex came, saw, and is on its way out, and now comes the time for the damage report. As Reuters reports, "At least nine deaths have been reported across the country connected with the polar air mass that swept over North America during the past few days. Authorities have put about half of the United States under a wind chill warning or cold weather advisory.... Homeless shelters and public buildings took in people who were freezing outside. Daniel Dashner, a 33-year-old homeless man who typically sleeps under a bridge on Milwaukee's south side, said he opted to seek a spot at a shelter on Monday night. "Usually if I have four or five blankets, I can stay pretty warm, but when that wind is blowing, I don't care how many blankets I have, the wind blows right through me," he said, as temperatures dropped to minus 6 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 21 degrees Celsius)."
Among the deaths reported was a 51-year-old homeless man in Columbus, Georgia, whose body was found in an empty lot after spending the night outdoors.
Two men died in Westerport, Massachusetts, while duck hunting on Tuesday when their boat capsized, dropping them into a frigid river, officials said. A third man was rescued.
A large avalanche in backcountry outside the Colorado ski resort area of Vail killed one person on Tuesday and caught up three others who survived and were being rescued, officials said. Avalanche danger in the area was rated as "considerable" due to high winds and recent heavy snows, said Spencer Logan, forecaster with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
Reuters with more on the geographic impact:
Major U.S. cities were in the grip of temperatures well below freezing, with Chicago seeing 2 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 17 C), Detroit 0 F (minus 18 C), Pittsburgh 5 F (minus 15 C), Washington 19 (minus 7 C) and Boston 15 F (minus 9 C).
New York's Central Park recorded the lowest temperature for the date, 4 Fahrenheit (minus 16 C), rising to 9 F (minus 13 C) on Tuesday afternoon with wind chills making it feel much colder, meteorologists said.
Schools in Minneapolis and Chicago were closed for a second day on Tuesday, although Chicago plans to reopen schools on Wednesday. Cleveland remained below freezing after temperatures fell to minus 11 F (minus 24 C) on Monday, breaking a 130-year-old record.
Impassable snow and ice halted three Chicago-bound Amtrak trains on Monday, stranding more than 500 passengers overnight in northwestern Illinois.
In the normally mild south, Atlanta recorded its coldest weather on this date in 44 years, as the temperature dropped to 6 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 14 degrees Celsius), while temperatures in northern Florida also briefly dropped below freezing, though the state's citrus crop was unharmed, according to a major growers' group.
On the other hand, there was some levity in the newsflow, when as AP reported, an escape inmate opted for the familiar warmth of prison and turned himself in.
Just how cold is it in Kentucky? Apparently cold enough for an escaped prisoner to decide to turn himself in. Authorities said the inmate escaped from a minimum security facility in Lexington on Sunday. As temperatures dropped into the low single digits Monday, officials say the man walked into a motel and asked the clerk to call police.
Robert Vick, 42, of Hartford told the clerk he wanted to turn himself in and escape the arctic air, Lexington police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said. Vick was checked out by paramedics and returned to Blackburn Correctional Complex, Roberts said.
"This was definitely of his own volition," she said. "It's cold out there, too cold to run around. I can understand why the suspect would turn himself in."
Vick would have been dressed in prison-issued khaki pants, a shirt and a jacket when he escaped, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Lisa Lamb said. Wind chill readings were 20 below zero Monday in Lexington.
The Lexington Fire Department treated Vick for hypothermia Monday evening, Roberts said. A call to the department was not immediately returned Tuesday morning.
Vick was serving a six-year sentence for burglary and criminal possession of a forged instrument at the time of the escape from Blackburn Correctional Center.
A forged instrument? Like a Federal Reserve note?