Jan. 31 (UPI) -- The polar vortex freezing the Midwest and Great Lakes regions will last for at least another day, forecasters said Thursday, as areas saw temperatures well below zero.
A trained weather observer in Mount Carroll, Ill., reported that temperatures fell to 38 degrees below zero, which would surpass the state of Illinois' previous low of minus 36 degrees.
Chicago sank to a low of 23 degrees below zero Wednesday, tying the fifth-coldest day since the National Weather Service started keeping records in 1872.
The temperature in the Chicago fell short of the record at 21 degrees below zero, while two other cities in the state, including Rockford and Moline set new records at minus 30 degrees and minus 33 degrees respectively.
At least nine people have died in storm- and cold-related incidents, although some news outlets, including The New York Times have reported up to 20 deaths.
Gerald Belz, an 18-year-old student at the University of Iowa, was among the dead after he was found lying outside, unresponsive, near a campus building around 2 a.m.
The freezing weather also taxed electrical grids, as thousands in Wisconsin and Iowa experienced power outages.
An anonymous good Samaritan Wednesday paid for 70 homeless people in Chicago to spend the rest of the week at a southside hotel after one of the propane tanks they used in an outdoor makeshift camp exploded.
Jacqueline Rachey, of the Salvation Army, said the Chicago Fire Department was in the process of moving the homeless people from an area near the Dan Ryan Expressway to its warming station as temperatures dipped to minus 22 degrees and wind chill of minus 49 when she was informed of the gesture.
Travel in places like Buffalo, N.Y., was perilous Wednesday. Buffalo Niagara International Airport canceled most of its inbound and outbound flights as 30-mph winds in the snow hampered visibility. The city issued a travel ban on roads as repeated multi-vehicle accidents forced authorities to shut down portions of Interstate 190 and the New York State Thruway.
"Whiteouts, as well as blowing and drifting snow resulting from gusty winds, threaten to force road closures and make travel nearly impossible and extremely dangerous at times," AccuWeather meteorologist Kyle Elliott reported.
A total of 2,350 flights within, into, or out of the United States were canceled on Thursday and 3,581 were delayed, according to flight tracking website Flight Aware.
General Motors said late Wednesday it's suspending operations at 11 Michigan plants due to the cold.
Minnesota residents cranking up gas heat to survive the constant subzero temperatures there forced Xcel Energy to ask that all 460,000 of its customers lower their thermostats to 63 degrees to conserve natural gas, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
"The unprecedented cold and wind that we're dealing with in Minnesota have customers running their heat almost nonstop which really increases demand on our system," Xcel said in a statement.
Forecasters predict the storm will begin a northward shift back into Canada starting Thursday afternoon, providing a gradual warm-up for the Midwest and Northeast going into the weekend and next week.
Temperatures are expected to rise above zero by Thursday night and could reach to 40 degrees or 50 degrees by the weekend.