CHICAGO — Snow-covered roads, high winds and ice were creating dangerous driving conditions Sunday from the Dakotas to Missouri to Delaware ahead of a “polar vortex” that’ll bring below-zero — and possibly record-breaking — temperatures not seen in years to much of the nation.
The counterclockwise-rotating pool of cold, dense air will affect more than half of the continental U.S. throughout Sunday and into Monday and Tuesday, with wind chill warnings stretching from Montana to Alabama. With it comes a startling forecast: 25 below zero in Fargo, N.D., minus 31 in International Falls, Minn., and 15 below in Indianapolis and Chicago.
“It’s just a dangerous cold,” National Weather Service meteorologist Butch Dye in Missouri said.
Several states in the Midwest were getting walloped with up to a foot of new snow, and residents shoveled out and stocked up on groceries before bitterly cold temperatures set in overnight.
Five to 7 inches fell overnight in the Chicago area, while 8 to 10 inches was expected to fall in central Illinois, Indiana and Michigan later Sunday, National Weather Service meteorologist Ed Fenelon said. Forecasts also called for several inches in western Tennessee and 1 to 3 inches in Kentucky.
In Chicago, temperatures were expected to fall throughout Sunday to about 11 degrees by 5 p.m., “and from there it will be a freefall for the rest of the night,” with temperatures bottoming out around minus 15, likely setting a daily record, Fenelon said. Earlier Sunday, the National Weather Service reported temperatures in the 20-below range in northern Minnesota and Grand Forks, N.D.
It hasn’t been this cold for almost two decades in many parts of the country. Because of that, medical experts are reminding people that frostbite and hypothermia can set in quickly at 15 to 30 below zero, and say it’s key to dress in layers, hats and gloves.