Temperatures across much of the U.S. plunged to their lowest levels in recent memory on Wednesday.

Here's a look at how the polar vortex impacted a number of cities:

Peoria, Ill.

With the mercury brutally below zero, downtown Peoria was desolate before dawn Wednesday except for Paul Gross.

He had no choice. He had work to do.

Gross — along with a handful of other contractors, all of whom had taken shelter at that bone-chilling moment — was helping to fix a busted water pipe that had flooded a swatch of Southwest Monroe Street.

“To be outside right now, you’d have to be foolish,” Gross said. “Or us.”

As he spoke about 4:45 a.m., the wind chill was at its worst: minus 51 degrees. But as far as most of Peoria was concerned, the temperature might as well have been absolute zero — or minus 459.67 degrees, the point at which all motion stops. That’s what downtown, the West Bluff, West Peoria and the Near South Side seemed like at that hour. Downtown, which usually stirs at least a little activity before dawn, sat still — except for Gross.

Peoria Journal Star, pjstar.com

Rockford, Ill.

Rockford just keeps breaking records, and not the good kind.

The city hit minus 51 degrees Wednesday morning when factoring in the wind chill. Not counting wind chill, the temperature was 25 below, breaking the Jan. 30 Rockford record low. The previous record for that date was minus 19 degrees set in 1966, according to the National Weather Service.

“I would not say minus 25 degrees is a firm number for today,” said Ricky Castro, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Romeoville. Weather conditions throughout the day could “enable things to really plummet.”

That’s because temperatures are expected to plunge, potentially to minus 30 degrees, before midnight.

“The colder it stays, the more likely it is to happen,” Castro said.

Rockford Register Star, rrstar.com

Springfield, Ill.

Springfield tied a low-temperature record Wednesday morning as the thermometer at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport bottomed out at 14 below zero.

The official National Weather Service reading, taken between 5 and 8 a.m., tied the record for the lowest temperature recorded on a Jan. 30 in Springfield. It also got down to minus 14 on Jan. 30, 2004.

The city on Wednesday is likely to break the record for the coldest high temperature ever recorded on Jan. 30. The current record is 3 degrees, set in 2004. The predicted high temperature on Wednesday is expected to be 4 below zero.

Wind chill readings in Springfield Wednesday morning approached minus 40, prompting officials to warn against venturing out into the dangerously cold weather to avoid hypothermia or frostbite. Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, confusion, slurred speech and exhaustion, said Melaney Arnold, an Illinois Department of Public Health spokeswoman. Frostbite symptoms include numbness and white or gray skin that feels firm or waxy.

The St. John’s Hospital emergency department had treated one case of frostbite by mid-morning, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Springfield State Journal-Register, sj-r.com

Ames, Iowa

While the past couple of weeks of wintry weather have been shocking, it’s mainly because of the reasonably mild winter we’ve had so far, Craig Cogil with the National Weather Service said.

It’s also not unusual for arctic air to bring bitterly cold temperatures for several days in a row to Iowa, he said.

“Typically we can get this kind of weather for a few days, maybe up to a week,” Cogil said. “Back in 1936 it started in January and didn’t end until March. It was a horrible winter for back then.”

What is unusual is just how cold it’s getting, he said.

“It’s a little more atypical to see windchills this cold,” he said. “We don’t see minus 40 or minus 50 very often.”

Temperatures will quickly moderate toward the end of the week and rise into 30s and 40s by the weekend, he said.

But until then, residents of Ames and Story County will have to cope with the bitter cold and the inconveniences it brings.

Livestock farmers around the area were among those feeling the sting of the cold, and so are the animals they care for.

Jeff Longnecker has been a cattle farmer for the last 40 years. On his farm near Cambridge, Longnecker said that the last time he had experienced weather this cold was in the mid-80s.

Ames Tribune, amestrib.com

Holland, Mich.

A point-in-time study of the number of people experiencing homelessness is conducted twice annually, which could prove more difficult this year as Michigan is under a weather-related state of emergency.

Each year on the last Wednesday in January, Greater Ottawa County United Way’s Lakeshore Housing Alliance program conducts the point-in-time count, along with other programs across the state. The annual count is done nationwide during the last 10 days of January.

The study is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and tied to funding for housing organizations. It is meant to show a snapshot of homelessness, and provides an estimate of the total number of sheltered and unsheltered homeless people living in emergency shelters, transitional housing, and places not meant for human habitation.

The other point-in-time count day is in August.

Starting at sunset on Jan. 30 until sunrise on Jan. 31, volunteers will help with the street count portion of the study.

Holland Sentinel, hollandsentinel.com

Akron, Ohio

The last time it was this cold for this long in Greater Akron was 1994 — the year Amazon launched, O.J. Simpson fled arrest in a white Bronco and an independent counsel launched an investigation into Bill and Hillary Clinton, which ultimately led to revelations about Monica Lewinsky.

If you’re under 30, chances are good you don’t remember what wind chills of minus 20 to minus 30 feel like, said Sarah Jamison, a meteorologist at the Cleveland office of the National Weather Service.

“It’s like opening your freezer and getting hit by a blast of cold in the face, but even colder,” she said.

Temperatures in Akron and surrounding areas will remain below zero for two days, both during daylight and after dark.

That, combined with 20 mph winds, will make it feel much, much colder, she said.

Akron Beacon Journal, ohio.com

Canton, Ohio

Warmer temperatures are on the horizon.

National Weather Service Marty Thompson said Friday’s high will be in the lower 20s, Saturday’s in the upper 30s and then on Sunday, the Akron-Canton area will see a high in the upper 40s, “near 50.”

The weather service website showed Monday’s forecast high at 51 degrees and showers.

“We’ll slowly get out of the real cold stuff here,” he said.

But winter is far from over.

“This is an up-and-down temperature pattern we’ve been experiencing this winter season,” Thompson said. But February’s temperatures and precipitation are expected to be below normal, he said.

Weather service records show the normal temperature this time of year ranges from 19 to 34 degrees.

Canton Repository, cantonrep.com

Columbus, Ohio

The U.S. Postal Service suspended delivery in parts of Ohio and other states Wednesday, citing “dangerously cold conditions” and wind chills as low as minus 60 in some places.

Mail service was canceled for the day in the Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Lima delivery areas, along with Michigan, Indiana, North and South Dakota and parts of eastern Nebraska.

The Tanger Outlets in Sunbury also closed Wednesday, joining a lengthy list of schools, churches and other locations that were encouraging residents to stay home and stay warm.

Social Security offices in Columbus and throughout Ohio were among the government offices that closed for the day, with plans to reopen at 10 a.m. Thursday. Chase Bank locations in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin also were closed because of the weather.

Warnings remained in effect until 1 p.m. Thursday, with wind chills expected to dip well below zero.

Columbus Dispatch, dispatch.com

Erie, Pa.

Most area schools were closed but many businesses remained open. That meant some people had to work outdoors in the brutal weather.

“To be honest, it’s worse when the snow is up to your hip,” said Tayzhawn Toran, a National Fuel Corp. meter reader. “When it’s this cold, you dress in layers so you can take off a layer when you get warm.”

Toran, 19, spent part of his day checking meters at Penn State Behrend. National Fuel removed Erie-area meter readers from their walking routes Wednesday and put them on driving routes or scheduled training sessions so they could stay warm.

Erie Times-News, goerie.com