At least 12 dead amid -48C conditions as arctic freeze shatters record lows across the Midwest

A wave of frigid arctic air that paralysed the US Midwest and caused at least a dozen deaths swept across the Northeast on Thursday but was expected to move along by the weekend, making way for warmer weather.

The prospect of a weekend break offered little comfort to those enduring icy conditions, brutal winds and temperatures as low as -37 C in the Midwest and -16C on the East Coast, according to the National Weather Service.

In Washington, where the low hit -12C and was expected to peak at only -4C, a small crowd of tourists braved the cold to take pictures outside the White House.

“We’re from a hot country. … Heavens, it’s very cold,” said Vijen Nadasan, 49, a tourist from Johannesburg, South Africa, who planned to spend the day sightseeing with his wife and daughter. “We’ve got to fight it out, right? Stay as warm as much as possible and fight it out.”

The bitter cold was due to a southward displacement of the polar vortex, a stratospheric wind pattern that normally swirls over the North Pole.

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