At least 21 people have died in one of the worst cold snaps to hit the US Midwest in decades.

Ninety million people – a third of the US – have seen temperatures of 0°F or below. Some 250 million Americans overall have experienced the “polar vortex” conditions.

Hospitals have been treating patients reporting frostbite as parts of the country ground to a halt.

Temperatures are expected to swing to above average over the weekend.

Who are the victims?

Homeless people have been particularly at risk, with warming shelters set up across cities.

But some still braved the freezing conditions and one woman, aged 60, was found dead in an abandoned house in Lorain, Ohio.

Gerald Belz was found unconscious outside a campus building, a short walk from his dorm. He died later at a hospital. Investigators believe his death was related to the subzero temperatures that plunged Iowa and all of the Midwest into a miserable and dangerous cold snap this week.

In the Buffalo area, one person died Thursday while using a snowblower, and another was found dead after shoveling. Earlier in the week, a married couple in their 20s died in Indiana in a car crash, a man in Milwaukee was found dead in his garage after shoveling and a man died of hypothermia in Evanston, Ill.

 

 

How much with this cost?

The extended winter freeze that so far has pounded entire regions of the U.S. figures to chill the economy, too. AccuWeather estimates a total cost to the economy of up to $14 billion, and while much of that will be recouped, up to $5 billion could be lost permanently.

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