Chicago Feels Coldest Air in Two Years

Wind Chill Advisory in effect Monday night as temperatures could plunge to 20 degrees below zero

Arctic blast, polar plunge, freezing cold ... whatever you call it, it's here for at least one more day and it's dangerous.

The wind chill dipped as low as 20 degrees below zero Monday night, prompting the National Weather Service to issue a wind chill advisory. Tuesday morning wind chills are expected to range from -10 to -20.

As winds ease in the afternoon, temperatures only recover to between 8 and 14 with wind chills producing much colder air.

"This is actually quite an impressive mass of cold air," said Richard Castro, a meteorologist at the weather service’s office in Romeoville.

Within the system, temperatures aloft are actually colder than those in the last subzero front that visited Chicago in February 2011. Castro said the earlier system produced a minus 9 reading at O’Hare International Airport on Feb. 10, 2011, the last below-zero reading for the region. It occurred just after that winter’s "Snowmageddon" with about 20 inches on the ground.

Lack of snow acts as insulation. Castro said that if the incoming weather produces below-zero temperatures, it will mark a rarity for Chicago.

A weather service study of the period from 1960 to 2010 found only 16 days with no snow cover and temperatures in the negative range, Castro said.

As they so often do, volunteers from the Salvation Army on Monday afternoon offered hot drinks and soup to frigid west side residents.

Those who must be outside are urged to keep their excursions brief.

Due to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the city of Chicago had just one warming center open on Monday. All six centers will be open Tuesday, city officials told NBC Chicago.

Monday's wind chill hovered between zero and -10 degrees with wind gusts up to 30 mph. The trend warms slightly for Wednesday, with mostly sunny conditions and highs between 20 and 25.

The plunge arrived after strong winds Saturday night carried a cold front through the area. Winds were so strong, the National Weather Service issued a wind advisory that expired early Sunday morning. The weather service said winds approached 50 mph in many spots, and in a few places even exceeded 60 mph.

The highest recorded wind was logged at 10:45 p.m. in Michigan City where a marine reading clocked 71 mph winds.

Meanwhile, the area's snow-less streak continues. Even the arctic blast likely won't bring measurable snowfall to break the cycle. As of Monday, the Chicago area has recorded 332 days without a snowfall of at least an inch and 330 days without a snow depth of at least an inch. Both streaks broke records set in 1940.

Cold Weather Tips:

  • Wear several layers of loose, warm clothing and keep your head, hands and feet covered when outdoors.
  • Know the symptoms of hypothermia: stiff muscles, shivering, puffy or swollen face, cold skin, slow breathing and mental confusion.
  • Never use an extension cord with a space heater. Ovens should not be used to heat homes.
  • Landlords must heat residential buildings to at least 68 degrees during the day and 66 degrees overnight.

If you need assistance or want to request a well-being check for someone who may be suffering, call the City of Chicago at 311,

Copyright CHIST - SunTimes
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