Record-breaking cold hits the U.S. as polar vortex descends

Rosemary Collier
January 30, 2019

Heavy snow and gusting winds also created blizzard-like conditions Monday in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and other states where officials closed schools, courthouses and businesses.

And the sub-zero cold and bitter winds will stick around for a couple of days, possibly bringing dozens of record lows with a life-threatening freeze before dissipating by the weekend, the National Weather Service reported (NWS).

As much as 60 cm of snow was forecast in Wisconsin, and 15 cm in IL.

Wednesday is expected to be the worst. Temps will fall into the teens and single digits Tuesday night into Wednesday morning with dangerously cold wind chills. Plows were working overtime in Cedar Rapids, Iowa overnight where heavy snow made roads almost impassable for drivers.

More than 70 warming centers were opened in Chicago, America's third city, where temperatures were forecast to potentially rival or exceed the all-time record of -27 degrees Fahrenheit. We'll have to watch Friday closely because air temperatures might get as cold as -25 degrees due to the tranquil conditions.

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"That's 40 degrees below normal", Hurley said.

"If you think of climate change as a kind of disorder the planet has, one of the greatest symptoms is increasing extreme weather events", meteorologist Nick Humphrey told Mother Jones this summer.

Over the next few days, 220 million people living in the continental United States - about 75 percent of Americans - will see temperatures drop below freezing as Arctic air blasts southward.

"Frostbites, hypothermia. and just people being out in the elements", one EMT worker described.

Residents should ensure that they have a proper amount of propane, wood pellets and/or firewood to last during this cold outbreak.

Weather Authority Alert: Heavy snow, gusty winds Sunday night into Monday
We will follow this up with even colder conditions and an extended period of time where temperatures don't climb above zero. Heavy snow was said to be possible for the north, with moderate snow area-wide and blowing snow Monday afternoon.

Both airports were hit with roughly 3 inches of fresh snow by 6 a.m. Monday, according to the most recent snowfall totals from the National Weather Service.

In December 2018, warm air moving in from the region, heated the usually chilly air 20 miles above the North Pole by about 125 degrees Fahrenheit, resulting in what is called "sudden stratospheric warming". "Where the polar vortex goes, so goes the cold air", said Judah Cohen, a winter storm expert for Atmospheric Environmental Research.

What is a polar vortex? "No such luck. They're expecting a high of 30 on Wednesday". "We are very confident this cold is going to be significant". He also urged residents to check on their neighbors and take safety precautions.

Forecasters say the temperature in northern IL could dip to negative 27 degrees (negative 33 Celsius) with wind-chill values as low as negative 55 degrees (negative 48 Celsius).

In Fargo, North Dakota, where the temperature dropped to minus 24F (minus 31C), Dan Hallock, an advertising executive, marveled that people were still working outside as he bought coffee. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp shut government offices in 35 counties on Tuesday, and schools across swaths of the state were also closed. Minneapolis Public Schools announced there would be no classes through Wednesday. It's not "maybe" or "if" at this point: Wind chills of -30° to -55° will occur.

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