Arctic blast brings life-threatening wind chills, subzero highs
The last in a short series of bitterly cold blasts of arctic air has plunged into the Midwest this weekend, bringing life-threatening wind chills and the lowest air temperatures of the season. The cold air will lose some of its bite as it arrives in the East and South early in the week ahead.
Parts of the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin may see subzero highs for the second day in a row on Sunday. But even this cold blast will not be extreme enough to break more than a few daily low-temperature records, since this is the coldest time of the year climatologically speaking and many past cold waves have been even more severe.
Current temperatures and sky conditions across the Midwest.
The wind will make this cold much more dangerous. Unlike some bitterly cold mornings, when temperatures plunge under a clear, calm sky above a deep snowpack, this batch of subzero temperatures has arrived on a vicious northwest wind.
Current Wind Chills
Current wind chill temperatures across the Midwest show what it feels like given the combination of current temperatures and sustained winds.
This has resulted in wind chills -- the temperature it feels like when wind blows across your exposed skin – reaching 30 to 50 degrees below zero Sunday morning over the Dakotas, Minnesota, northern Iowa and western Wisconsin. At these levels, frostbite can occur to exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes. According to the National Weather Service office in Grand Forks, North Dakota, "the brutal cold will be a major hazard this entire weekend with life-threatening wind chills."
See the severe winter weather around the world:
Saturday morning, the wind chill dipped as low as minus 50 degrees in Rugby, North Dakota. A wind chill reading of minus -52 degrees was recorded in Silver Bay, Minnesota, Sunday morning.
The actual air temperature fell as low as minus 33 degrees in Embarrass, Minnesota, Sunday morning.
Below is an overview of this final wave of cold air that will progress south and east across parts of the country early this week, followed by the forecast temperature maps. After this cold blast, some areas will see a January thaw.
READ MORE: January Thaw Forecast
- Sunday: Much of the Midwest will see daytime highs 15 to 30 degrees below average. Subzero highs are expected in parts of the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin. Daytime highs may be below zero into parts of Nebraska and southern Iowa, where official 24-hour highs will probably be above zero but occur in the wee hours of the morning.
- Monday: A swath from the Dakotas to the western Great Lakes will see subzero morning low temperatures. Wind chills Monday morning will be in the minus 30s in the Upper Midwest, with teens and 20s below zero as far south as parts of Illinois, Indiana, and northern Missouri. Highs will be 10 to 25 degrees below average from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic states. Parts of the Upper Midwest will likely stay in the single digits. Teens for highs will be common from the Great Lakes to the Ohio Valley and interior Northeast.
- Tuesday: Temperatures moderate slightly from the Upper Midwest to the Great Lakes. Temperatures will remain some 5 to 15 degrees lower than average in much of the East.
Forecast Lows into Early Week
Morning low temperatures.
Perspective: How Does the Cold Rate Historically?
While we're unlikely to see many record lows, in a few places temperatures may reach levels not seen in about two years.
For instance, Minneapolis-St. Paul may flirt with the minus-16 mark Sunday. The Twin Cities have not officially recorded a reading that low since Jan. 28, 2014.
High temperatures may not rise above zero in Des Moines, Iowa, and Madison, Wisconsin, Sunday. That's only happened three times this century in Des Moines and four times this century in Madison, last occurring in each capital city on Jan. 6, 2014.
Last Week's Cold Recap (Jan. 10-12)
Subzero temperatures were recorded Sunday morning as far south as northern Kansas and northern Missouri. Fosston, Minnesota, was the coldest location in the Lower 48, with a low of 35 degrees below zero. Many locations in the northern Plains and Upper Midwest experienced wind chills in the 20s and 30s below zero.
Prior to the arrival of this surge of cold air, above-average temperatures took hold of the Northeast Sunday. Several daily record highs were set on Sunday including:
Wilmington, Delaware (66 degrees); Philadelphia (65 degrees); Poughkeepsie, New York (65 degrees); Hartford, Connecticut (59 degrees); Providence, Rhode Island (59 degrees); Boston, Massachusetts (58 degrees); Worcester, Massachusetts (56 degrees); Albany, New York (55 degrees); Burlington, Vermont (53 degrees); Portland, Maine (52 degrees)
Monday morning, the coldest spot in the Lower 48 was near Cotton, Minnesota, where the low dipped to 36 degrees below zero. Several other locations in northwest Wisconsin and northeast Minnesota saw lows in the 20s below zero. Farther south, both the Chicago and Milwaukee metro areas woke up to subzero temperatures. Wind chills in the Windy City were in the teens below zero while Milwaukee saw a wind chill as low as minus 21 degrees. Single digits lows were recorded as far south as northern Kentucky, with teens into the mid-South.
High temperatures dropped more than 20 degrees from Sunday to Monday for much of the Northeast.
On Monday afternoon, temperatures were only in the 30s from Boston to Philadelphia with 20s in the interior Northeast. Highs in the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes were even colder with temperatures struggling to reach the single digits and teens. Conditions were chilly in the South as well where highs in the 40s were found from Raleigh to Atlanta and westward into New Orleans and Dallas.
Tuesday morning, wind chills were in the 20s and 30s below zero in parts of the eastern Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin.
Wednesday morning, lows in the single digits were reported as far south as northern Kentucky. Low temperatures in Chicago and Milwaukee dipped into the single digits above and below zero for the fourth consecutive morning Wednesday, with wind chills in the teens below zero.
Early January Cold Recap (January 4-5)
On Tuesday, temperatures ranged from to 10 to 15 degrees or more below average from Georgia to portions of New York and New England. While not record breaking, for locations like Atlanta, Georgia and Richmond, Virginia, it was the coldest day since Feb. 24-25, 2015. At New York City, Philadelphia and Washington D.C., it was the coldest day since March 6, 2015.
Temperatures plunged as low as 27 degrees below zero Tuesday morning in Clayton Lake, Maine, and 22 degrees below zero at Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks of upstate New York. Subzero lows were also noted across much of New Hampshire and Vermont as well as the Catskills of New York and the nearby Poconos in northeast Pennsylvania. Several locations in southwestern New York and northwestern Pennsylvania also fell below zero.
Boston dipped into the single digits and wind chills as low as zero extended as far south as Washington, D.C., Tuesday morning.
Despite that, there were no reports of record lows at any of the major long-term weather observation sites in the Northeast Tuesday.