Residents across a wide stretch of the U.S. are bracing for dangerously cold and potentially record-breaking temperatures as another wave of Arctic air brings frigid conditions and a 'polar vortex.'
"All the ingredients are there for a near-record or historic cold outbreak," Weather Bell meteorologist Ryan Maue told the Associated Press. "If you're under 40, you've not seen this stuff before."
The National Weather Service warned on Saturday of possible near record lows, with the Northern Plains/Upper Midwest being threatened with wind chills as low as -60 Sunday night:
The upper pattern across the nation will continue to be dominated by arctic intrusions bringing reinforcing shots of cold air to the country. Forecast models remain consistent in carrying the polar vortex into the northern tier of the U.S. while carrying it eastward in time. Many locations may see their temperature readings drop to near record values.
By Sunday, afternoon temperatures across the Northern Plains/Upper Midwest may linger in the negative 10s/20s with lows plummeting that night to near -30 Fahrenheit. The broad pressure gradient setting up over the region will allow gusty winds to persist which will lower wind chill temperatures to very dangerous levels.
Incredibly, it may feel as cold as -50 to -60 on Sunday night over sections of the north-central states with the frigid air remaining in place into early next week. As the vortex shifts eastward, the polar air will begin to affect the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley with temperatures plummeting rapidly. While the air mass will modify, temperatures will remain downright cold with the forecast high in Chicago, IL being only -11 on Monday.
The polar vortex, Andrew Freedman of Climate Central explained,
The polar vortex is an area of cold low pressure that typically circulates around the Arctic during the winter, spreading tentacles of cold southward into Europe, Asia, and North America at times. Except this time, it’s not a small section of the vortex, but what one forecaster, Ryan Maue of WeatherBELL Analytics, called “more like the whole enchilada” in a Twitter conversation on Thursday.
In Minnesota, where temperatures are expected to plunge as low as 35 degrees below zero on Monday, Gov. Mark Dayton announced Friday that schools would be closed statewide.
"The safety of Minnesota’s schoolchildren must be our first priority,” Dayton said. "… I encourage Minnesotans of all ages to exercise caution in these extreme weather conditions."
As the arctic cold conquers about half of the continental United States, temperatures are forecast to dip into the minus teens through the lower Midwest. Snow will cover swaths from the Plains to the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys, all the way to New England.
Parts of the Midwest could see temperatures not recorded in 15 to 20 years -- for a painful couple of days.
Even areas as far south as Nashville could be frozen solid in zero-degree cold as the arctic air mass dives southward at the beginning of next week.
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— NWS (@NWS) January 3, 2014
— NWS Green Bay (@NWSGreenBay) January 3, 2014
— NWS Central Region (@NWS_Central_US) January 3, 2014
— NWS Boston (@NWSBoston) January 4, 2014
— NWS Wilmington OH (@NWSILN) January 3, 2014