Polar Vortex Passing As Temperatures Rise Across The U.S.

After days of wishing the grown-up world had snow days, the polar vortex may already be on its way out. Temperatures are expected to climb Wednesday and Thursday, marking the end our brief fling with the 2014 North American cold wave, as Wikipedia has named it. Our time together was short, but we feel like we really got to know it, you know? In any case, it's goodbye: the National Weather Service says that a "much anticipated warm-up" is expected across the eastern two-thirds of the U.S. starting today as the "week's bone-chilling cold will begin to moderate," with temperatures checking in above freezing within the next 24 to 48 hours. Southwestern winds are expected to push the arctic air back to the Upper Midwest, before gusts from the southeastern Gulf area knock the bad weather back into Canada. Where it belongs.

Most of the U.S. currently has a general 'hazardous weather outlook,' although much of the South remains in a hard freeze warning. A few 'winter weather advisory' counties still dot the map, but there are far fewer than in previous days. The cold weather has killed at least 21, and tens of thousands have been unable to travel. Driving became temporarily illegal in Indianapolis to keep the roads clear for emergency vehicles, and in Chiberia (aka Chicago), AAA was answering 650 automobile assist calls each hour. An escaped prison inmate in Kentucky even turned himself back in because he was too cold. As Bustle reported:

Vick made it as far as the Sunset Motel and Restaurant before turning himself in, just 3.8 miles from Blackburn correctional facility where he’s been serving a six-year sentence for burglary and criminal possession of a forged instrument. He was later treated for hypothermia by paramedics but is now, we presume, ‘snugly’ behind bars once again—relatively speaking, at least.

Confirming that the authorities had no hand in Vick’s round-up, Lexington police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said: “This was definitely of his own volition. It’s cold out there, too cold to run around. I can understand why the suspect would turn himself in.”

Embarrass, Minn., hit -34.5 degrees, and Minneapolis was below zero for 62 straight hours. The South didn't get away so easily, either: Atlanta hit a record low of six degrees.

But as of early Wednesday, only 551 flights had been canceled, compared with the thousands Tuesday and the day before, as fuel froze and tarmacs were covered with ice.

"To be fair, though, Mars is still way colder," the Smithsonian Institute helpfully blogged.

Though warm air is on the way, temperatures will still be about 15 to 25 degrees colder than normal across most of the country today — so don't put away the long johns yet. Of course, the West Coast has been just fine through all of this. Enjoy each of your 41 balmy degrees, Palm Springs. We're enjoying this out here. Really.

Image: Getty Images