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US town of Hell freezes over as people urged to lower heating to ease strain on utilities

Hell has frozen over, literally, as the Michigan town comes to grips with the icy blast. Credit: NBC

Hell has officially frozen over as the US faces facing blisteringly cold temperatures. The Michigan town has suffered lows of -24c, as residents battle to cope with the cold front.

Usually hardy residents of the north-eastern states are being forced to stay inside during the cold snap as gusts of wind have cause temperatures to drop to as low as -48c in International Falls, Minnesota.

Warnings have been issued that the weather poses danger to life - with people advised to not spend time outdoors to avoid the worst of the conditions.

Despite the cold weather, people are being told to moderate their use of heating. Michigan's Governor asked residents of the Michigan Lower Peninsular to not heat their homes to more than 18c to ease pressure on utilities systems in the region.

Lake Michigan, the lake on which Chicago sits, has been pictured with eerie fog rising from it as temperatures dropped down to -23c.

Officials have told people to prepare for the weather, urging them to carry extra clothing and blankets in vehicles in case of an emergency.

Eight deaths related to extreme cold weather have been linked to the polar vortex - the name for the weather system driving the freezing weather.

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Whilst it's not unusual for the US to get very cold weather, this frozen front has brought about extra concern from authorities and national services.

The United States' third-largest city, Chicago, resembled a ghost town during Thursday morning rush hour. Many commuters stayed home after employers shut offices and shops due to the polar vortex.

Mail deliveries have been suspended across large parts of the US as the cold weather takes grip. Credit: AP

Authorities in Chicago have been scurrying to find shelter for the city's thousands of homeless people. An organisation working with the city's community said that its biggest concerns are: "hypothermia, frostbite and respiratory illnesses.”

The country's National Weather Service said people had nothing to fear after reports of loud booms were received. Ed Shimon, a meteorologist with the service, said it was a result of harmless 'frost quakes' caused as a result of rapidly dropping temperatures.

People have been advised to avoid spending time outdoors to avoid frostbite. Credit: AP

In a weather warning, the service said the conditions could become life threatening, adding that "frostbite can occur quickly," and people risk "hypothermia or death," if precautions are not taken. Officials said people have around five minutes of being outside before they entered the frostbite danger zone.

In the Iowa town of Des Moines, people were advised by authorities not to take deep breaths of the icy cold air to avoid damaging their health. The area's weather monitoring service tweeted to remind people of the risks of hypothermia and to ensure that pets are kept in safe and warm places amid the "dangerous wind chill."

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Sunrise in Chicago brought another day of freezing lows. The worst of the weather is due to ease today, forecaster predict. Credit: AP

Letters are being undelivered as the US Postal Service has suspended delivery in several areas. The service said it would consider "suspending other potential delivery areas based on temperature and wind chill forecasts."

Whilst the weather bites, people have still been using it as an opportunity to have some fun. On Twitter, one man posted an image of frozen noodles elevating a fork in the air to demonstrate just how cold it is.

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The weather system is due to lift on Thursday, bringing slightly milder temperatures compared to those recorded in the past days. But a change in weather won't immediately remedy issues for people living in the north-eastern and mid-west states.

The disruption has been particularly pronounced in Chicago, the US' third biggest city. In the heart of the city, the Chicago river has frozen solid.

Chicago O'Hare airport had hundreds of flights cancelled on Thursday, leaving thousands of passengers displaced. It follows more than 1200 cancellations on Wednesday, according to FlightRadar24.

United Airlines tweeted it will allow passengers to fly at a later date after it announced it was "significantly reducing," its flights to and from Chicago.

Commuters have had a tough time trying to get to offices with many rail connections closed amid the weather. Credit: AP

The knock-on effect of the cancellations is likely to roll into the coming days as people stranded by the polar blast reattempt travel.

On the ground, the travel situation for many Americans isn't looking a great deal more positive. Police dealt with a 26-car pileup on a a highway in Pennsylvania on Wednesday at around 1pm local time. At least two dozen people were injured after a sudden gust of wind caused a whiteout on a busy highway, leading to the mass collision. Officers said the route was reopened around three hours later.

On the rails, services have been disrupted. Amtrak said it planned to halt some trains on Thursday, services are expected to return to normal on Friday. Rail workers were forced to take the unusual measure of setting rails alight earlier this week in a bid to prevent them from cracking in the cold.