Dangerous Cold Descends On The U.S.IBTimes UK

Much of the US is set to witness record low temperatures as a "Polar Vortex" is expected to bring on freezing weather in the coming days.

The dangerously low temperatures will affect more than half of the continental US, while some parts of the midwest are likely to experience the coldest weather in two decades.

Forecasters predict temperatures as low as -25F (-31C) in Fargo, North Dakota and -15F (-26C) in Chicago. Temperatures in certain parts of central and northern regions could plunge to as low as -60F (-51C) as the effect of the wind chill.

"The coldest weather in years will be making its presence known from the Upper Mid-West to the Mid-Atlantic region for the beginning of the work week. Owing to the deep layer of the cold air mass, this will provide for an incredibly strong surge of bitterly cold Arctic Air along with gusty winds," the National Weather Service (NWS) said.

The vortex, an anticlockwise-rotating pool of cold and dense air, has already blanketed areas of northern US and dumped up to 60 cm of snow.

"The weather pattern across North America right now is set up to be very favourable for the southward transport of Arctic air. It's not going to be long-lived. By the end of the week the temperatures definitely start to moderate across the whole of the country," said meteorologist Bob Oravec of the NWS, according to Reuters.

Authorities have urged residents to stay indoors and stock up food. Experts have warned that under such harsh conditions, the exposed skin would suffer frostbite in less than five minutes. Medical experts have urged the public to dress properly as frostbite and hypothermia can quickly set in.

"A person not properly dressed could die easily in those conditions," said NWS expert Scott Truett.

Schools across various states, including Minnesota, will remain closed owing to the bitter weather. This is the first time in 17 years all the schools will be shut in Minnesota due to bad weather.

The weather has also disrupted both air and road transportation. Thousands of domestic and international flights have either been suspended or diverted because of bad weather conditions.