CHICAGO (AP) — The bitter cold that gripped the Midwest forced commuters to bundle up like polar explorers. By early next week, many of those same people might get by with a light jacket.
Just days after the arctic conditions, the region will seemingly swing into another season, with temperatures climbing by as much as 80 degrees, according to forecasters. Experts say the rapid thaw is unprecedented, and it could create problems of its own: bursting pipes, flooding rivers and crumbling roads.
"I don't think there's ever been a case where we've seen (such a big) shift in temperatures" in the winter, said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the Weather Underground firm. "Past record-cold waves have not dissipated this quickly. ... Here we are going right into spring-like temperatures."
The dangerously cold and snowy weather is suspected in at least 18 deaths, including a man found frozen in his backyard Thursday in suburban Milwaukee and a man who died Friday after rear-ending a salt truck in Indiana.
But relief from the bitter Midwestern cold is as close as the weekend. Rockford, Illinois, was at a record-breaking minus 31 degrees (minus 35 Celsius) on Thursday morning but should be around 50 degrees (10 Celsius) on Monday. Other previously frozen areas could see temperatures of 55 degrees (13 Celsius) or higher.
Temperatures in Ohio are forecast to range between the low-40s to the mid-50s over the next week.
The dramatic warm-up will offer a respite from the bone-chilling cold that canceled school, closed businesses and halted trains. But potholes will appear on roads and bridges weakened by the freeze-thaw cycle. The same cycle can crack water mains and homeowners' pipes. Scores of vehicles will be left with flat tires and bent rims.
In Detroit, where some water mains are almost 150 years old, city workers were dealing with dozens of breaks, said Palencia Mobley, deputy director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. Sprinkler lines burst in two buildings at Wayne State University due to the cold.
The effect on the overall economy was not expected to be that great, in part because there were no widespread power outages such as there are in a hurricane.
"People may be in their homes, but they can do things such as online shopping," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics. "Life goes on."