The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

January 5, 2014

Below-zero temps push into Midwest, Northeast

CHICAGO — Snow-covered roads and high winds created treacherous driving Sunday from the Dakotas to Michigan and Missouri as residents braced for the next round of bad weather: dangerously cold temperatures that could break records across much of the nation.

Temperatures were being suppressed by a "polar vortex," a counterclockwise-rotating pool of cold, dense air that 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.

The forecast is extreme: 25 below zero in Fargo, N.D., minus 31 in International Falls, Minn., and 15 below in Indianapolis and Chicago. Wind chills — what it feels like outside when high winds are factored into the temperature — could drop into the negative 50s and 60s. Northeastern Montana was warned Sunday of wind chills up to 59 below zero.

"It's just a dangerous cold," National Weather Service meteorologist Butch Dye in Missouri said.

Several Midwestern states were walloped by up to a foot of new snow on Sunday. Five to 9 inches fell in the Chicago area by Sunday afternoon, while the St. Louis area had about a foot of snow and northern Indiana had at least 8 inches. Central Illinois was bracing for 8 to 10 inches, and southern Michigan could see up to 15 inches.

Officials closed several Illinois roadways because of drifting snow, and warned residents to stay inside. Roads in the Midwest were particularly dangerous, and officials in Missouri warned it was too cold for rock salt to be very effective.

Authorities also urged residents to check on elderly and disabled relatives and neighbors.

In Chicago, temperatures were expected to bottom out around minus 15 overnight, likely setting a daily record, National Weather Service meteorologist Ed Fenelon said. Earlier Sunday, temperatures sank to 20-below and colder in northern Minnesota and Grand Forks, N.D.

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