Parts of the Midwestern United States will be so cold that the U.S. Postal Service will suspend delivery today across vast areas of cities and states. Most are in 13 areas where the wind chill factor is likely to drop to 20 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. In others, the number may go as low as 60 degrees below zero.
Exposure to extremely cold weather can cause frostbite and skin and tissue damage within minutes. Hypothermia can cause worse problems, and under the worst conditions can be deadly.
According to the Mayo Clinic:
Hypothermia is a medical emergency that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature. Normal body temperature is around 98.6 F (37 C). Hypothermia occurs as your body temperature falls below 95 F (35 C). When your body temperature drops, your heart, nervous system and other organs can’t work normally. Left untreated, hypothermia can eventually lead to complete failure of your heart and respiratory system and eventually to death.
Protection against extreme cold only has limited results when temperatures drop well below zero and wind chills below −10 degrees. Experts warn that people should wear layers of clothing. Ski masks offer face protection, but not for long.
The number of postal carriers who could be exposed to extreme cold today and tomorrow numbers into the thousands. The Postal Service says there are about 15 carriers per ZIP code. The 13 states and cities where the Postal Service will not deliver are based on three-digit ZIP codes, which can contain several five-digit ZIP codes where the 15 carriers work.
At 10 p.m. yesterday, the Postal Service suspended some deliveries today due to extreme cold. Its management said:
Weather forecasters are warning of dangerously cold conditions in parts of the nation. Some places could see wind chill readings as low as 60 below zero. Due to this arctic outbreak and concerns for the safety of USPS employees, the Postal Service is suspending delivery Jan. 30 in the following 3-digit ZIP Code locations:
- Michigan: 486-491, 493-499
- Indiana: 460-469, 472-475, 478, 479
- Chicago: 606-608
- Lakeland: 530-532, 534, 535, 537-539, 541-545, 549, 600, 602, 601, 611
- Detroit: 480-485, 492
- Central Illinois: 601, 603 – 605, 609, 613, 614, 616, 617
- Northern Ohio (Cleveland and Lima areas): 441, 458
- Ohio Valley (Cincinnati and Columbus areas): 452, 430-432
- Western Pennsylvania: (Erie and Bradford areas): 165, 169-177, 188
- Northland: 540, 546-548, 550, 551, 553-564, 566
- Hawkeye: 500-514, 520-528, 612
- Dakotas: 580-588, 570-577
- Eastern Nebraska: 680-689