Numerous watches and warnings have been issued across the Upper Midwest ahead of a brutal stretch of cold weather. The cold, which can be traced back to Canada, is set to track through the rest of the Midwest over the coming days. Conditions ahead of the bitter and dangerous cold is expected to be windy, with the potential for a wintry mix as we head into Monday morning.
So what’s going on and what’s driving this dangerous Arctic blast?
You may have heard the term polar vortex used numerous times through the years and before you read any inaccurate information, lets get down to what it is and what it isn’t.
The polar vortex is a large area of low pressure and cold that is situated at both poles. It is comprised of not only cold, but swirling winds in the upper atmosphere that is typically stronger in the winter months. During winter, the polar vortex expands or grows, typically sending cold air southward.
When the right ingredients come into play, the polar vortex can become dislodged, leading to record cold spilling into the lower 48. Historical records show this has happened numerous times in the past, but is happening more frequently. Events like this cause many to throw around the word polar vortex, which causes the meaning to get lost in translation. While the Midwest will be dealing with record breaking cold over the next few days, it’s not the polar vortex but instead a piece of it.
The cold air will come in waves, with round number one arriving Sunday night into Monday. A cold front is set to track through Mid-Missouri with falling temperatures and gusty winds expected through the day Monday. Initially rain will accompany the front, but as the colder air filters into the region we could see a changeover to a wintry mix. Little to no accumulation is expected, so travel won’t be much of a problem. However, any puddles or water on roadways could freeze as temperatures drop into the single digits for lows Monday night.
Round #2 of the cold air will arrive Tuesday into Wednesday. This round will feature the most dangerous stretch of cold, with life-threatening wind chills. A clipper system accompanying a cold front will track through the Midwest, with the potential for light snow showers into Tuesday. The biggest impacts will be felt behind the cold front, with temperatures quickly falling below zero Tuesday night into Wednesday. However, it will feel significantly colder, as winds will be quite breezy. This will spell trouble for many, as wind chill values Tuesday night into Wednesday morning will be anywhere from -15 to -30 degrees. Frostbite will occur within 30 minutes for any exposed skin, so it’s very important to prepare for this cold weather outbreak. Unfortunately we see little relief Wednesday, as the core of the cold air will be situated across the Great Lakes region. This will leave us with highs struggling to climb above 5 degrees Wednesday, which would be a record for the lowest high for that day.
Winter weather and temperatures in the single digits and below can pose a risk to both people and animals.
To minimize that risk, there are things you can do during a winter weather event. These include:
– Layering on the clothes. It’s recommended that you wear at least three layers. A base layer to wick sweat off your skin, a middle layer to retain body heat, and an outer layer that shields you from the wind.
– In addition to clothes, you should cover up any exposed skin to prevent frostbite.
– Always have a winter car survival kit, in case you get stranded in an accident or without gas.
– Fill up the gas tank, so that you can stay warm if you do become stranded. Then when the gas runs out if help hasn’t arrived you can turn to the winter car survival kit.
Stay with ABC 17 News as we continue to follow the latest Arctic outbreak and like us on Twitter @ABC17Stormtrack.