Polar vertex freezes Midwest, parts of U.S. with cold air

31 Janvier, 2019, 08:37 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • A US flag shows the strong winds that have combined with plunging temps create windchills reaching-34 degrees Celsius in Minnesota

Temperatures in Chicago are expected to be dangerously cold, hovering between 15 and 25 degrees below zero, according to the National Weather Service. This morning, Chicago reported wind chills of negative 52 degrees, while Iowa described wind chills of negative 42 degrees.

"The term "polar vortex" has become more commonly used in the past couple of years but the phenomenon has been around forever", National Weather Service meteorologist Mark Chenard told Reuters in an interview. And the temperature in Fargo, North Dakota, was 31 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (-35°C).

A woman walks through snowstorm in Times Square, as record low temperatures spread across the Midwest and Eastern states, in New York City, US, January 30, 2019.

'That's 40 degrees below normal, ' Hurley said.

One-to-two feet of snow was forecast in Wisconsin and six inches in IL, according to the National Weather Service.

"Wind chills of -30 to -60 (Fahrenheit) can be expected over portions of the northern Plains and Great Lakes region".

Even Alabama and MS could see snow, the service added.

"Not only is brutal cold invading the central parts of the country, accumulating snow and freezing roadways all the way into the deep south could make travel risky", the NWS said.

States of emergency have been declared from Wisconsin and MI, down to Alabama and Mississippi.

When that jet stream occasionally weakens and buckles, he said, it disrupts weather patterns - bumping warmer air into Alaska and pushing cold winds down into the US Midwest and East Coast, Chenard said.

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Overnight between Tuesday and Wednesday, it dropped to -29C in Minneapolis.

Classes were canceled for Wednesday and Thursday in many cities, including Chicago, home of the nation's third-largest school system, and police warned of the risk of accidents on icy highways.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said government offices would remain closed through Thursday.

Other states not quite used to cold temperatures, including MS and Alabama, are also preparing for cold conditions and snowfall. The Milwaukee Rescue Mission's call volume was 'unusually high, ' but officials said there should still be enough beds for those who need them.

As ominous as the term polar vortex sounds, meteorologists say the phenomenon is not new, nor despite its sound does it refer to a cyclone of cold or a freakishly unsafe storm.

He said ambulance crews were handling all outside response incidents as being potentially life-threatening.

Officials throughout the Mid West are taking extraordinary measures to protect the homeless and other vulnerable people from the bitter cold, including turning some city buses into mobile warming shelters in Chicago. He also urged residents to check on their neighbors and take safety precautions.

The unusually frigid weather is attributed to a sudden warming far above the North Pole.

Millions of Americans braced Tuesday for a unsafe polar vortex which began to settle over a large swath of the United States, threatening to set new records as schools and businesses closed and authorities warned of frostbite. "Polar" for its typical position near the North Pole and "vortex" for the counter-clockwise motion that all low-pressure systems induce in the atmosphere in the Northern Hemisphere.

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