Published: Wed, January 30, 2019
Research | By Wilma Wheeler

Heavy snow hitting parts of Midwest; dangerous cold coming

Heavy snow hitting parts of Midwest; dangerous cold coming

Wind chills Thursday along much of the East Coast will be below zero. The largest public school districts in both states are among those closed, including districts in Milwaukee, Minneapolis and St. Paul.

In northern Minnesota, the wind chill predicted for Wednesday morning "could cause frostbite to exposed skin in less than five minutes", the National Weather Service said. It's only the fourth time the zoo has closed during its 85-year history. Wind chills could dip to negative 55 degrees (negative 48 degrees Celsius) in northern IL, which the National Weather Service calls "possibly life threatening".

Observed wind chill temperatures beginning Tuesday morning were reaching as low as negative 57 degrees Fahrenheit which was observed in Flag Island, Minnesota.

Wind chills as low as -50 F (-46C) were also expected by Tuesday evening through Thursday morning.

Extremely cold, record-breaking temperatures are already settling across parts of the Midwest after a powerful snowstorm pounded the region overnight Monday.

"If you live up in the Arctic Circle, you'd say this is pretty normal". The last time Flint or the Tri-Cities had a high temperatures below zero was January 18, 1994 - more than 25 years ago.

In Des Moines, Iowa, where the wind chill may dip to minus-40 on Wednesday, the National Weather Service advised home and business owners to make sure they were ready for the impending cold snap. The Milwaukee Rescue Mission's call volume was 'unusually high, ' but officials said there should still be enough beds for those who need them.

In the Northeast, frigid air is expected to sweep through tonight, bringing the coldest temperatures of 2019 so far, according to AccuWeather.

"The charitable organizations responsible for operating shelters are adding emergency capacity as they do whenever unsafe extreme temperature events occur", said Hennepin County Emergency Management Director Eric Waage.

"This decision was made because of the dangerously cold temperatures forecast with about 90% certainty by the National Weather Service", Minneapolis Public Schools said.

The city will also open emergency warming centers Tuesday starting at 6 a.m. A chart from the NWS shows how to calculate the wind chill and how long it takes for frostbite to develop in those temperatures.

Ironically, the disruption in the polar vortex was caused by warm winds entering the upper atmosphere over the Arctic causing "sudden stratospheric warming" over the North Pole that sent temperatures in the region rapidly up by tens of degrees.

"When the polar vortex is weak or 'perturbed, ' the flow of air is weaker and meanders north and south", climatologist Judah Cohen of the firm Atmospheric and Environmental Research told CBS News. The polar vortex was also leading to emergency preparations and school cancellations in the South, where temperatures were expected to be decidedly less polar but where residents are less accustomed to dealing with the cold.

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