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February's bitterly cold temperatures are likely enough to help rank this winter as Chicago’s third coldest since record-keeping began more than 140 years ago.
So far, this winter season’s average temperature of 19.1 degrees currently places it as the fifth coldest since record-keeping began in 1871, the National Weather Service said.
But a frigid end to the week will probably push this winter’s average temperature to at least 19 degrees, which would bump it into the top three coldest on record, the weather service said.
Forecasters define meteorological winter as the months of December through February, and use the average temperatures measured at O’Hare Airport to determine the rankings.
A Wind Chill Advisory went into effect at midnight Thursday through Thursday afternoon.
NBC 5 meteorologist Brant Miller said temperatures will feel like -20 degrees Thursday morning in some portions of the viewing area.
Expect a high of only 7 degrees on Thursday and partly sunny skies.
The record low maximum for Feb. 27 is 10 degrees, set in 1888. Thursday's air threatens that.
Thursday night could be the coldest night of all, but models indicate more clouds arriving in advance of our next weather system that should bring more southerly, warmer winds.
The record overnight low for Feb. 28 is zero degrees, set in 1884. The record low maximum is 14 degrees, set in 1891.
We have a shot at breaking both of those, too.
NBC 5 meteorologists are also keeping an eye on a system that could bring some fresh snow into the area in time for the weekend.
The first system has been downgraded, with only a dusting expected in the Chicago area and up to an inch to the north.
The snow machine will fire up again late Saturday, and potentially leave a couple of inches on the ground by the end of the outdoor hockey game at Soldier Field, with the heaviest amounts in Central Illinois.
A second wave of snow is expected Sunday, which could leave a total of 6-8 inches in the Chicago area, and up to a foot to the south in areas such as Kankakee.
If long-range forecasts hold, the brutal cold will gradually ease into the weekend, but temperatures will still only be in the 20s by Sunday.
In case you’re wondering, there are fewer than 24 days until spring officially arrives. The average high this time of year is about 40 degrees. The National Weather Service says the tally of below zero lows in Chicago so far stands at 22, tied with the 1981-1982 season for the fourth-most subzero lows in a season. The season of 1884-1885 holds the record for the most subzero lows in Chicago with 25.