CHICAGO – A persistent weather pattern driving bitterly cold air south out of the Arctic will cause temperatures from Minnesota to Kentucky to plummet today, turning this winter into one of the coldest on record in some areas.
For about 2½ days, actual temperatures will range from the teens to below zero, and the wind chills with be even colder, minus 43 in Minneapolis, minus 23 in Milwaukee and Chicago, minus 14 in Kansas City, Mo., and minus 3 in Louisville.
In fact, the National Weather Service says most of the Midwest will feel far colder than today’s expected high in the nation’s northernmost city, Barrow, Alaska – minus 4.
National Weather Service Meteorologist Scott Blair stopped short of calling the latest round of cold part of the polar vortex, which are winds that circulate around the North Pole.
“There’s really nothing abnormal about the air that’s coming into the area,” he said. “It’s just been a very persistent pattern” of cold air.
He said it’s an amplified pattern of the jet stream, and cold air is filtering in behind a large trough of low pressure. He explained further: “Troughs are typically associated with unstable or unsettled weather, and, at this time of the year, much colder air.”
In the Chicago area, residents were bracing for a historic deep freeze. today’s high was expected to be minus 4 degrees, and it could get as low as negative 17 downtown, with wind chills as low as 40 below. Such temperatures are expected to hold into Tuesday.
If Chicago makes it to 60 hours below zero, it will be the longest stretch since 1983, when it was below zero for 98 hours, and the third longest in 80 years.
Chicago resident Matt Ryan, 19, was headed to his family’s house in the suburb of Oak Park on Sunday.
“I came home to steal a scarf from my parents,” he said. His plan for Monday: Dress in layers, carry hand warmers and wear long underwear.
Ryan said he was a little excited that classes were going to be canceled at the University of Illinois at Chicago, but that he’d never seen a winter so intense.
“I’m sick of it,” he said.
Chicago Public Schools called off today’s classes for its nearly 400,000 students a day in advance, as did suburban districts. Earlier this month, when it was below zero for 36 straight hours, CPS closed for two days.
North Dakota and South Dakota residents dealt with dangerous cold Sunday and wind gusts that reached up to 60 mph. The high winds led to blowing snow that made it nearly impossible to travel in some parts.
“This is definitely the most widespread event we’ve had this year,” said weather service meteorologist Adam Jones in Grand Forks, N.D.
Snow and high winds in Indiana led officials there to restrict vehicle traffic or recommend only essential travel in more than half of the state’s counties. And Iowa officials said the combination of snow and high winds would make traveling dangerous; forecasters there called for wind chills to be as low as 40 below zero on Monday.
In Michigan, snow on the roads and deep subfreezing temperatures contributed to multiple crashes Sunday that forced expressway closings. And on Saturday night, two people were killed in Grand Haven Township in western Michigan because of similar weather conditions, authorities said.
Alex Alfidi, manager at Leo’s Coney Island restaurant in the Detroit suburb of Birmingham, said the extreme winter weather is hurting his business.
“We slowed down big time,” Alfidi, 39, said, noting that while he’s been getting some carryout business, the casual walk-in customers have been staying away.
He also said it’s hard for him and his employees to get to and from work in the snow, ice and cold. Sometimes, the 24-hour restaurant is operating with just him and a waitress.
Alfidi said he has seen some challenging winters in 15 years in Michigan, but none as bad as the current winter.
“This is the biggest one,” he said.