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‘Thermal backlash’: Polar vortex to be followed by extreme temperature swings

A week of extreme cold has left more than two dozen people dead – but even as temperatures rise, the wild weather is not over.

After a week of sub-zero temperatures that left more than two dozen people dead, the United States’ midwest is finally about to thaw.

But the extreme weather is not over.

America’s National Weather Service has warned residents to brace for massive temperature swings.

For example, the twin cities of Minneapolis and St Paul will go from -32 degrees celsius to seven degrees on Sunday local time, then plunge back down to -23 degrees by Wednesday.

On the local fahrenheit temperature scale, that’s “about 125 degrees in temperature change” in a week, the NWS says.

US media outlets have labelled the erratic weather a “thermal backlash”. The phenomenon could cause new problems for residents, as melting ice threatens to flood rivers and icicles fall from skyscrapers.

It comes amid the fallout from a polar vortex that wreaked havoc across multiple states, disrupting public transport, grounding flights and shutting businesses and schools.

The human toll was even more shocking. As temperatures plunged as low as -34 degrees celsius – -45 degrees after the wind chill was factored in – tragic stories emerged of people who had frozen to death outside.

Ada Salna, a 90-year-old from Michigan, died after locking herself out of her home while feeding her pets.

An 18-year-old university student, Gerald Belz, was found dead behind an academic hall on campus.

Hundreds more people were injured, with hospitals reporting huge surges in cases of frostbite and hypothermia.

Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis normally sees around 30 frostbite patients in an entire winter. It admitted 18 in the past week, spokeswoman Christine Hill said Friday.

“I definitely saw more frostbite than I’ve ever seen in my entire career just in the last three days,” said Dr. Andrea Rowland-Fischer, an emergency department physician at Hennepin Healthcare.

Most of those patients, she said, had underlying problems that made it difficult for them to take care of themselves: the developmentally delayed, the mentally ill, the very young and the very old.

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