Sunday 17 February 2019

Student died after walking outside campus building in -52C wind chill temperatures

Gerald Belz (18) was discovered unconscious Wednesday
Gerald Belz (18) was discovered unconscious Wednesday
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

A university community are in shock after a student died after walking outside in subzero temperatures in the Midwest USA.

University of Iowa student Gerald Belz (18) was found dead outside a building at the campus early on Wednesday.

The death of the pre-med student was believed to be weather-related.

The young man was discovered at approximately 3am when the wind chill was about minus 52 degrees Celsius.

Belz was rushed to hospital where he passed away. Doctors didn’t find any alcohol in his system, his family said.

Tributes have poured in for the young man, with his dad describing him as a "a momma’s boy with a tough exterior."

Ice forms along the shore of Lake Michigan before sunrise, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019, in Chicago. The painfully cold weather system that put much of the Midwest into a historic deep freeze was expected to ease Thursday, though temperatures still tumbled to record lows in some places. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
Ice forms along the shore of Lake Michigan before sunrise, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019, in Chicago. The painfully cold weather system that put much of the Midwest into a historic deep freeze was expected to ease Thursday, though temperatures still tumbled to record lows in some places. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
A view of frozen Lake Michigan during the polar vortex is seen from an airplane in Chicago, Illinois Photo: Twitter
Ice forms along the shore of Lake Michigan before sunrise, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019, in Chicago. The painfully cold weather system that put much of the Midwest into a historic deep freeze was expected to ease Thursday, though temperatures still tumbled to record lows in some places. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
Icicles form on the walkway at North Avenue Beach of Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 29, 2019. REUTERS/Pinar Istek
Ice and water flows over the American Falls, viewed from Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019. (Tara Walton/The Canadian Press via AP)
Ice covers the observation deck at the base of Horseshoe falls in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019. (Tara Walton/The Canadian Press via AP)
Steam is seen above Lake Michigan during subzero temperatures carried by the polar vortex in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 30, 2019, in this picture obtained from social media. Mandatory credit IRSHAAD GOEDAR/via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
U.S. Coast Guard members work on a boat used as an ice breaker along the Hudson river between the towns of Kingston and Poughkeepsie during a polar vortex in New York, U.S., January 31, 2019. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

"I want people to remember him as a compassionate person,” his dad, Michael Belz, told KCRG news channel.

"He had many more friends than I was aware of."

Deaths

At least a dozen deaths related to extreme cold weather have been reported since Saturday in Michigan, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota, according to officials and media reports.

A general view of the skyline during subzero temperatures carried by the polar vortex, in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 30, 2019, in this picture obtained from social media. Mandatory credit Instagram @peteyp4blo/via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
A general view of the skyline during subzero temperatures carried by the polar vortex, in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 30, 2019, in this picture obtained from social media. Mandatory credit Instagram @peteyp4blo/via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
The city skyline is seen from the North Avenue Beach at Lake Michigan, as bitter cold phenomenon called the polar vortex has descended on much of the central and eastern United States, in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 29, 2019. REUTERS/Pinar Istek
Ice covers the Chicago River Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019, in Chicago. A deadly arctic deep freeze enveloped the Midwest with record-breaking temperatures triggering widespread closures of schools and businesses. (AP Photo/Teresa Crawford)
Icicles form on the walkway at North Avenue Beach of Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 29, 2019. REUTERS/Pinar Istek
Frozen Lake Michigan is pictured in St. Joseph, Michigan, U.S. January, 2019 in this picture obtained from social media. Joshua Nowicki via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT.
A harbor light is covered with snow and ice on the Lake Michigan at 39th Street Harbor, Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019, in Chicago. A deadly arctic deep freeze enveloped the Midwest with record-breaking temperatures on Wednesday, triggering widespread closures of schools and businesses, and prompting the U.S. Postal Service to take the rare step of suspending mail delivery to a wide swath of the region. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
A man walks his dogs near Wrigley Field during subzero temperatures carried by the polar vortex, in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 30, 2019. REUTERS/Pinar Istek
Desolate Wrigley Field is seen at sunset during subzero temperatures carried by the polar vortex, in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 30, 2019. REUTERS/Pinar Istek
A lone pedestrian crosses the Chicago River early Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019. A deadly arctic deep freeze enveloped the Midwest with record-breaking temperatures. (Rich Hein/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)
Chicago's lakefront is covered with ice on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019. Temperatures are plummeting in Chicago as officials warn against venturing out into the dangerously cold weather. (AP Photo/Teresa Crawford)

Classes were cancelled for Wednesday and yesterday for students across the Midwest, including Chicago, home of the nation's third-largest school system, and police warned of the risk of accidents on icy highways.

In a rare move, the US Postal Service appeared to set aside its credo that "neither snow nor rain ... nor gloom of night" would stop its work as it halted deliveries from parts of the Dakotas through Ohio.

Illinois State Police officers rescued 21 people stranded in a charter bus that broke down in sub-zero temperatures along Interstate 55 near Auburn after the vehicle's diesel fuel turned to gel in its engine.

In Detroit, a 70-year-old man was found dead on a residential street, a Detroit police spokeswoman said. About 24km south in the community of Ecorse, a former city councilman in his 70s and dressed only in sleepwear was also found dead.

Streets in Chicago were nearly empty, with few people walking outside in the painfully cold air as temperatures hovered around -28C.

"It's terrible!" Pasquale Cappellano, a 68-year-old waiter, said as he smoked a cigarette while waiting outside for a bus on Chicago's North Side. "I gotta pick up my medication at Walgreens or else I wouldn't be out the door."

Brutal

In Minneapolis, chilled to -26C, Brian Pierce ventured out to "embrace the elements" and found himself watching cars slipping on the roads.

"The roads sound really weird, it seems there's a lack of grip," he said. "And my teeth hurt."

A forecast for warmer weather by this weekend offered little comfort to those enduring icy conditions, brutal winds and temperatures as low as -34C.

"We have some dangerous wind chills," Andrew Orrison, a forecaster for the National Weather Service, said.

In Minnesota and Upper Michigan, temperatures hit 29C and parts of North Dakota were at -30C.

The bitter cold was caused by displacement of the polar vortex, a stream of air that normally spins around the stratosphere over the North Pole but whose current was disrupted.

It pushed eastward and states including Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania experienced bitterly cold temperatures.

The overnight low yesterday in Boston was -21C.

Videos this week showed boiling water freezing as it was tossed in the air in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and transit workers in Chicago setting fire to train tracks to keep them from locking up.

More than 2,500 flights were cancelled and more than 3,500 delayed yesterday morning, most of them out of Chicago's O'Hare International and Midway International airports.

General Motors Co suspended operations at 11 Michigan plants and its Warren Tech Centre after a utility made an emergency appeal to users to conserve natural gas after extreme cold and a fire at a compressor station.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles also cancelled a shift yesterday at two of its plants.

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