The wandering polar vortex is about to give the Midwest and Great Lakes regions a taste of temperatures more commonly found at the North Pole, and authorities say they can't warn people strongly enough about how dangerous the weather will be. In Illinois, Gov. JB Pritzker says his administration is activating an emergency preparedness plan to deal with the "potentially historic winter storm that will bring extreme cold to our state," Reuters reports. He says residents will be warned about the "life-threatening conditions" set to affect the state from Tuesday to Thursday. More:
- Record-breaking cold. With temperatures set to fall as much as 50 degrees Fahrenheit below average in an area stretching from the Dakotas to Missouri to New England, dozens of temperature records are expected to fall, the Washington Post reports. In Chicago, forecasters predict the temperature will fall to -29 Wednesday, two degrees below a record set in 1985. Mayor Rahm Emanuel says "all hands are on deck" and city facilities including libraries and police stations will be used as warming centers.
- "If you don’t have to be outside, don’t." National Weather Service meteorologist Amy Seeley issued that warning for Chicago, where the wind chill is expected to make the temperature feel like -50, enough to cause frostbite in minutes, the Chicago Tribune reports.
- First, the snow. The freezing temperatures were preceded by a snowstorm that dumped as much as 15 inches of snow on parts of Wisconsin and Minnesota, the AP reports. Snow was also forecast as far south as Alabama, where Gov. Kay Ivey has issued a state of emergency.
- Colder than Antarctica. CBS Chicago lists some of the many places that will be warmer than the Windy City on Wednesday—including Mount Everest and the South Pole.
- State of emergency in Wisconsin. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has declared a state of emergency and told the National Guard to be ready to assist, the New York Times reports.
- Minnesota hunkers down. In Minnesota, which will experience its coldest temperatures in at least 22 years, schools are closed until Thursday, the Star Tribune reports. In Minneapolis, outreach workers are scrambling to prevent deaths among the homeless, though they warn that there is a shortage of shelter space.
- Weather alerts. The National Weather Service has a map of weather alerts by state—and tips for cold weather safety.
- Watch out for the winds. National Weather Service meteorologist Rich Otto tells NPR that winds will contribute to life-threatening conditions. "The winds in combination with the cold temperatures are going to allow for some dangerously cold wind chills, values as cold as -30 to -50 degrees in a couple locations, and even colder as you get farther north, into parts of Minnesota, where some of those wind chills could get down to -60," he says.
- President Trump weighs in. Trump, as he regularly does during cold snaps, expressed skepticism about global warming. " What the hell is going on with Global Waming? (sic)" he tweeted. "Please come back fast, we need you!"
(Forecasters say this will be the "coldest air in a generation."