SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Bitterly cold temperatures blowing into the Midwest and Northeast in the coming days are likely to set records, disrupt schools along with airports and endanger those who go outside without the proper clothing.
The frigid air will begin Sunday and last into early next week, funneled as far south as the Gulf Coast because of what one meteorologist called a “polar vortex,” a counterclockwise-rotating pool of cold, dense air.
As a result, forecasters are expecting startling temperatures in many places: 25 below zero in Fargo, N.D., minus 31 in International Falls, Minn., and 15 below in Indianapolis and Chicago. Wind chills may reach 50, 60 or even 70 below zero.
At temperatures of 15 to 30 below, exposed skin can get frostbitten in minutes and hypothermia can quickly set in.
“People need to protect themselves against the intense cold,” said Dr. Brian Mahoney, medical director of emergency services at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. “They have to wear a hat, they have to have face protection.”
Mahoney said mittens are better than gloves, layers of dry clothing are best, and anyone who gets wet needs to get inside.
“A person not properly dressed could die easily in those conditions,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Truett in St. Louis, describing the expected wind chill in Missouri at daybreak Monday.
It hasn’t been this cold for decades — 20 years in Washington, D.C., 18 years in Milwaukee, 15 in Missouri — even in the Midwest, where bundling up is second nature. Weather Bell meteorologist Ryan Maue said, “If you’re under 40 (years old), you’ve not seen this stuff before.”
The arctic chill will affect everything from sports to schools to flights. Mike Duell, with flight-tracking website FlightAware.com, says to expect airport delays and flight cancellations because of the cold temperatures.
“For some of them, they run into limitations on the aircraft. They’re only certified to take off at temperatures so low so if they get into a particular cold front it can prevent them from being able to legally take off,” he said. “In a lot of cases, it’s just ice.”