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"Polar Vortex" Plunges Much Of The Country Into Coldest Weather In 20 Years

There's "cold" and then there's "polar vortex cold."

Posted on January 6, 2014, at 11:39 a.m. ET

Forget Hercules: The weather phenomenon of the week is a "polar vortex." Meteorologist Frank Giannasca described the unusual event to NBC News as a "a swirling pool of extremely cold air located tens of thousands of feet in the atmosphere."

Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune / MCT

A bicyclist rides northbound on Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago on Sunday Jan. 5.

The polar vortex has plunged much of the country into dangerous, record-breaking low temperatures, including 32 below zero in Fargo, N.D., 21 below in Madison, Wis., and 15 below in Minneapolis, Indianapolis, and Chicago, according to the AP.

The Weather Channel

Combined with the wind chill, the temperatures in some regions could drop into negative 50s and 60s. Roughly 140 million Americans will be affected by the freezing temperatures.

Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press / MCT

People walk a snow-filled street on Jan. 3 in Washington, D.C.

Thirteen Americans have died from this past week's weather, with 11 from road accidents.

AP Photo/ The Detroit News, David Guralnick

Rick Gibson shovels the snow from his neighbor's driveway in Southfield, Mich., on Jan. 5.

For much of the United States, the temperatures are the lowest in 20 years, according to the National Weather Service.

Gary Cameron / Reuters

A man photographs the Korean War Veterans Memorial after a heavy snow storm in Washington Jan. 3.

Close to 3,000 flights were canceled Sunday, according to But the weather couldn't prevent more than 70,000 hardcore fans from attending the Green Bay Packers game in Wisconsin, despite temperatures between 4 and 8 degrees.

Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group / MCT

A football fan shows off to television cameras during the San Francisco 49ers game against the Green Bay Packers in Green Bay, Wis., on Jan. 5.

Luckily, the polar vortex won't last forever: By the end of the week, temperatures in the Midwest will rise to the 20s and 30s, and up to the 40s in parts of the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast.

Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune / MCT

A snowy Chicago on Jan. 5.

UPDATED — Jan. 6, 7:40 p.m. ET:

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for multiple counties in Western New York., Carmine Galasso / Via AP Photo

"We are preparing for a truly extraordinary winter weather event," said Go. Cuomo during a conference call late Monday afternoon. "This storm promises to be truly difficult and dangerous."

It is predicted that the weather will be the worst on Tuesday, but will then slowly rise by the end of the week.

Tomorrow will be the worst of it, then we slowly climb out of the deep freeze! #7dayforeacst

Raphael Miranda


Tomorrow will be the worst of it, then we slowly climb out of the deep freeze! #7dayforeacst

/ Via

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.