CHICAGO - An unusual weather pattern driving bitterly cold air from the Arctic Circle south across a huge swath of the Midwest is expected to send temperatures plummeting Monday from Minneapolis to Louisville, Ky., the latest punch from a winter that is in some areas shaping up as one of the coldest on record.
Temperatures will remain in the grips of the deep freeze for 2 days, said meteorologist Mike Hudson of the National Weather Service in Kansas City, Mo. It will be similar to what happened earlier this month when temperatures dropped quickly and stayed low for days when a piece of the polar vortex - winds that circulate around the North Pole - "broke off and moved south," Hudson said.
Locally, the forecasted high for Tuesday will be near 4 degrees with a low plunging into the negatives. Wednesday will see some sun, but not much relief in the way of temperatures with a high of 10 and a low of zero.
Nyjaii Williams, of St. Paul, is bundled up against the cold wind Sunday in St. Paul.
In cities where temperatures reached the 40s, 50s and even higher Sunday, people will wake up today to temperatures ranging from the teens to well below zero. And with the wind chill, cities throughout the Midwest will feel far colder than the minus-4 that Hudson said was expected in Barrow, Alaska, the nation's northernmost city.
The weather service said city after city would face wind chills well below zero today: minus-43 in Minneapolis, minus-23 in both Milwaukee and Chicago, minus-14 in Kansas City, minus-10 in St. Louis, and minus-3 in Louisville.
In the Chicago area, residents were bracing for an historic deep freeze. Today's high was expected to be minus-4 degrees and drop as low as 17 below zero downtown, with wind chills as low as 40 below zero.
Temperatures could remain below zero Tuesday as well and remain below zero for a total of 60 hours - the longest stretch since temperatures stayed below zero for a record 98 hours in 1983 and the third longest stretch in 80 years. It also would easily eclipse the 36 straight hours temperatures stayed below zero earlier this month, when the frigid weather prompted the city's public schools to close for two days.
By noon Sunday, Chicago's school district, which has approximately 400,000 students attending more than 650 schools, said it would be closed today. Districts in the Chicago suburbs also announced they'd be closed today.