Coldest Arctic Blast in at Least Two Decades to Hit the Midwest and Freeze 75% of the Nation


January 28, 2019

Brutal sub-zero temperatures threaten frostbite in minutes, heavy snow in the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes may cause "dangerous to impossible travel conditions," with snow likely to extend all the way down to Mississippi and Alabama.



The coldest weather in years will put millions of people and animals throughout the midwestern United States at risk for hypothermia and frostbite to occur in minutes during the final days of January.

The deep freeze continued across the Upper Midwest on Sunday with temperatures plummeting well below zero in the morning. The low of 45 below zero F in International Falls, Minnesota, shattered the day’s record of 36 below zero F from 1966.

As harsh as Sunday morning was, the worst is yet to come as the polar vortex gets displaced from the Arctic Circle and dives into the Midwest in the wake of the disruptive snowstorm early this week.

In addition to the risks of frostbite and hypothermia, residents will be faced with high heating costs and the potential for frozen and bursting water pipes, dead car batteries and school closures.



The cold can be life-threatening for any person or animal without a proper way to stay warm.

The Arctic blast will plunge across the Midwest early this week with the most extreme conditions anticipated at midweek.

"Some locations in the Midwest will be below zero continuously for 48-72 hours," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll. 


Snowstorm cancels thousands of flights in Chicago, triggers dangerous travel across Midwest
Snowstorm to threaten mid-Atlantic, New England before major freeze-up at midweek
What is a polar vortex?
The dangers of frostbite: How to prevent, spot and treat it
How to protect pipes from freezing in frigid weather

The harshest conditions are anticipated from North Dakota to northern Illinois, where there can be a prolonged stretch of dangerously low temperatures that can cause frostbite in mere minutes.

On Tuesday night, widespread lows under 30 below zero will grip much of North Dakota, eastern South Dakota and Minnesota. Temperatures in Chicago can drop to 25 below zero for the first time since the mid-1980s.

Little recovery in temperatures is expected on Wednesday with highs stopping well short of rising above 10 below zero from Fargo, North Dakota, to Minneapolis and Chicago. Highs in the single digits will have those from Kansas City, Missouri, to St. Louis to Cincinnati, Ohio, and Pittsburgh shivering.

Wednesday night can be just as cold, if not colder than, Tuesday night in many areas.

As biting winds usher in the Arctic blast, AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures can drop under 40 below zero from Fargo to Minneapolis and Chicago on Tuesday night and hold there into at least Wednesday night.

“I cannot stress how dangerously cold it will be,” Doll stated. "An entire generation has gone by without experiencing this type of cold in the Chicago area."

The cold can shatter records both during the day and at night as temperatures are held 20 to 40 degrees below normal.

The last sub-zero high in Chicago was on January 6 of 2014, when the temperature only reached -2F.

January 13 to January 15 of 2009 was the last period of three consecutive days with subzero high temperatures in Minneapolis.



In preparation for the cold, percautions were being taken in several states.

Wisconsin governor, Tony Evers, declared a state of emergency on Monday morning through Friday for the dangerous cold and blowing and drifting snow.

Residents will once again have to take the proper precautions and cover all exposed skin to avoid frostbite and hypothermia. The homeless should be encouraged to stay in shelters.

“However, homeless shelters will likely fill up quickly,” added Doll.

Be sure that livestock have sufficient means to stay warm and limit time that pets venture outside.

Residents should ensure that they have a proper amount of propane, wood pellets and/or firewood to last during this cold outbreak. A life-threatening situation can arise in homes that lose heat.

Motorists should travel with a winter survival kit in the event their vehicle breaks down and are then forced to wait for help. Carrying extra blankets, food, water, flashlight, first aid kit, and cell phone charger are highly recommended.



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