(CNN): Even for the hardiest, cold-tested Americans, the deep freeze sweeping over the Midwest will be brutal.
Officials warned of almost instant frostbite as temperatures in the region plunged below zero Wednesday. Some state offices are closed and postal workers won’t deliver mail in six entire states — and parts of four others. Thousands of flights have been canceled along with dozens of train services — most of them in Chicago.
About 212 million people — or 72% of the continental US population — will see temperatures drop below freezing over the next few days. And more than 83 million Americans — about 25% of the US population — will suffer subzero temperatures at some point between Wednesday and Monday.
With at least three deaths blamed on the extreme cold this week, authorities are urging people to bundle up, stay inside and check up on the elderly and vulnerable in what experts are describing as “the coldest air in a generation.”