The Tribune (SLO) - - Front Page - BY BLAKE NI­CHOL­SON

Com­mu­ni­ties in the Mid­west look for ways to pro­tect res­i­dents from the bit­ter cold brought by the po­lar vor­tex.


Win­ter’s sharpest bite in years moved past painful into life-threat­en­ing ter­ri­tory Tues­day, prompt­ing of­fi­cials through­out the Mid­west to take ex­tra­or­di­nary mea­sures to pro­tect the home­less and other vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple from the bit­ter cold, in­clud­ing turning some city buses into mo­bile warm­ing shel­ters in Chicago.

Tem­per­a­tures plunged as low as mi­nus 26 in North Dakota with wind chills as low as mi­nus 62 in Min­nesota. It was nearly that cold in Wis­con­sin and Illi­nois. Gov­er­nors in Wis­con­sin, Illi­nois and Michi­gan de­clared emer­gen­cies as the worst of the cold threat­ened on Wed­nes­day.

The Na­tional Weather Ser­vice fore­cast for Wed­nes­day night called for tem­per­a­tures in Chicago as low as mi­nus 28, with wind chills to mi­nus 50. Detroit’s out­look was for Wed­nes­day overnight lows around mi­nus 15, with wind chills drop­ping to mi­nus 40.

“These are ac­tu­ally a pub­lic health risk and you need to treat it ap­pro­pri­ately and with that ef­fort,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Tues­day. “They are life-threat­en­ing con­di­tions and tem­per­a­tures.”

A wind chill of mi­nus 25 can freeze skin within 15 min­utes, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice.

At least four deaths were linked to the weather sys­tem, in­clud­ing a man struck and killed by a snow plow in the Chicago area, a young cou­ple whose SUV struck an­other on a snowy road in north­ern In­di­ana, and a Mil­wau­kee man found frozen to death in a garage.

Of­fi­cials in large Mid­west­ern cities in­clud­ing Min­neapo­lis, Mil­wau­kee, Chicago and Detroit were des­per­ately try­ing to get the home­less off the streets.

Min­neapo­lis char­i­ta­ble groups that op­er­ate warm­ing places and shel­ters ex­panded hours and ca­pac­ity, and am­bu­lance crews han­dled all out­side calls as be­ing po­ten­tially life-threat­en­ing, ac­cord­ing to Hen­nepin County Emer­gency Man­age­ment Direc­tor Eric Waage. MetroTran­sit said it wouldn’t re­move peo­ple from buses if they were rid­ing them sim­ply to stay warm and weren’t be­ing dis­rup­tive.

Emanuel said Chicago was turning five buses into makeshift warm­ing cen­ters mov­ing around the city, some with nurses aboard, to en­cour­age the home­less to come in from the cold.

“We’re bring­ing the warm­ing shel­ters to them, so they can stay near all of their stuff and still warm up,” said Cristina Vil­lar­real, spokes­woman for the city’s Depart­ment of Fam­ily and Sup­port Ser­vices.

Shel­ters, churches and city depart­ments in Detroit worked to­gether to help get vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple out of the cold, of­fer­ing the mes­sage to those who re­fused help that “you’re go­ing to freeze or lose a limb,” said Terra DeFoe, a se­nior ad­viser to Detroit Mayor Mike Dug­gan.

PETER THOM­SON La Crosse Tri­bune

Hol­i­day Inn & Suites em­ployee John Mills clears snow from the ho­tel’s park­ing lot in La Crosse, Wis., on Mon­day af­ter a storm blan­keted the re­gion.

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