FedEx worker among many killed by arctic outbreak

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Many of cities in the Midwest, including Chicago, Detroit and Minneapolis-Saint Paul, have had dangerously cold weather all week, breaking records by several degrees in some cases as temperatures dropped into the teens and 10s below zero. Some areas were as cold as the 40s and 50s below zero, and also dealt with stiff winds. Snow also accompanied the bitter cold at times, making the situation even worse. Unfortunately, the arctic outbreak may have led to the deaths of at least a dozen people, including a FedEx employee.

Police said in a press release that the FedEx worker’s body was found at a delivery hub in Illinois on Thursday amid sub-zero temperatures. The 69-year-old man worked at FedEx Freight in East Moline, where the body was discovered.

Captain Darren Gault said another FedEx employee found the worker’s body between two of the company’s semi-tractors around 9:30 a.m. Rock Island County Coroner Brian Gustafson said authorities weren’t sure how long the body had been there before it was found, and Gault said there were no significant signs of foul play.

Gustafson also said the cause of death was unknown and that an autopsy was scheduled for Monday, February 4. An investigation was underway, with authorities making use of security cameras around the FedEx facility.

Many other deaths may be connected to the prolonged, harsh weather, either due to road conditions or from people simply being out in the elements too long.

• A Michigan man who froze to death in his neighborhood had been “inadequately dressed for the weather,” officials said.

• In a wind chill of -51 degrees, an 18-year-old student at the University of Iowa was found unresponsive a short distance from his dorm on Wednesday; he later died in a hospital.

• A 60-year-old woman found dead in an abandoned house in Lorain, Ohio, was believed to have died of hypothermia, according to Lorain County Coroner Stephen Evans.

• On Tuesday, a man froze to death in a garage in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, having “apparently collapsed after shoveling snow,” according to a medical examiner.

• A man was fatally struck by a snow plow near Chicago on Monday, and in northern Indiana, a 22-year-old police officer and his wife died after a collision on icy roads.

Among the other victims this week, according to local coroners, police and fire departments, are a woman found frozen to death inside a Milwaukee, Wisconsin apartment after the thermostat malfunctioned; two people in Buffalo, New York who died using a snowblower and/or shoveling; and a homeless man in Buffalo who was pronounced dead after being discovered inside a bus shelter.

A warm-up is in the forecast for this weekend, with daytime highs above freezing, but it’s little comfort for those who have lost loved ones at the hands of Mother Nature.

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Nick Austin, Director of Weather Analytics and Senior Meteorologist

In his 17 years of weather forecasting experience, Nick worked on air at WBBJ-TV and WRCB-TV, including time spent doing weather analysis and field reporting. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from Georgia Institute of Technology. Nick is also a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” for eight consecutive years. Nick earned his National Weather Association Broadcasting Seal in 2005.

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