Death Toll Rises As Polar Vortex Brings Arctic Temperatures To The Midwest

Photo: Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.
At least eight deaths have been linked to the arctic temperatures currently holding the Midwest in a deep freeze.
On the University of Iowa campus, 18-year-old student Gerald Belz was found unresponsive behind a building at around 3 a.m. on Thursday morning. He later died at a nearby hospital. Police report that there was no alcohol in his system and they believe his death was related to the record cold temperatures. At the time Belz was discovered, the air temperature was -22, with a wind chill of -51.
Classes at the University of Iowa were cancelled on Thursday.
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Officials across multiple states have reported weather-related deaths in Milwaukee, Detroit, Rochester, Minnesota, and Illinois, including an 82-year-old man who died from exposure after falling outside his home.
The Washington Post reports that the dry frigid air can cause frostbite within minutes and lead to spontaneous nosebleeds. The National Weather Service in Des Moines has advised that if people have to go outside they should "avoid taking deep breaths and minimize talking."
The icy temperatures have taken a toll on local and federal infrastructure, leading to gas line explosions and power outages that have complicated efforts to keep the population safe and warm. And as the death toll rises, fears grow for the homeless population across the US.
According to a 2010 report from the National Coalition for the Homeless, at least 700 people “experiencing or at risk of homelessness” die each year from hypothermia in the U.S.
Temperatures are expected to rise beginning Friday after reaching record lows – colder than the South Pole – on Thursday.
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