By the numbers: Midwestern US endures worst of polar vortex, all-time record lows broken
By Kristina Pydynowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
February 02, 2019, 12:57:07 PM EST
Records were shattered as the polar vortex unleashed the harshest cold in years on the midwestern United States during the final days of January.
After the polar vortex plunged southward, temperatures plummeted under 20 below zero F from North Dakota to northern Illinois during the morning hours of both Wednesday and Thursday.
The low of 38 below zero recorded at Mt. Carroll, Illinois, is being reviewed by a state climate extremes committee to determine if the Illinois state record low was broken on Thursday morning. The current record is 36 below zero that was set near Congerville on Jan. 5, 1999.
Biting winds made the extreme cold more life-threatening as AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures dropped under 50 below zero. Frostbite can occur in mere minutes on exposed skin in these conditions.
Among the deaths from the snow and cold that struck the Midwest was a man found frozen to death in a garage in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, according to the Associated Press.
The cold also led to widespread school closures, major travel disruptions and even the suspension of mail service.
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"An entire generation has gone without by without experiencing this type of cold in the Chicago area," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.
Much to the relief of residents, the deep freeze is being replaced by a surge of milder air this weekend. Temperatures can dramatically swing 40 to 70 degrees higher than the lowest readings this past week.
More than 340 daily low minimum and 340 daily low maximum temperature records were broken or tied across the Midwest over the past two days from this Arctic outbreak. Several of these stations also set all-time low minimum and maximum temperature records. #PolarVortex19 pic.twitter.com/GDWZVHGeOx— MRCC (@MidwestClimate) January 31, 2019
Detroit Metro Airport (DTW) just spent 36 consecutive hours below 0°, from 1am Wed. to 1pm today. This is the longest such streak since Jan. 1994 (66 hours). Another long streak was in Jan. 1982 (34 hours). The all-time record of 68 hours below 0° from Feb. 1899 still stands.— NWS Detroit (@NWSDetroit) January 31, 2019
The official low this morning at MSP was -28F. The last time it was -28F or colder at MSP was February 2, 1996. It was -32 that morning. #mnwx— NWS Twin Cities (@NWSTwinCities) January 30, 2019
This week’s episode of Everything Under the Sun covers two topics. First, host Regina Miller talks to Punxsutawney Phil's handler, John Griffiths for a fun look at the history and tradition of Groundhog Day. Then, Regina discusses the Polar Vortex with AccuWeather's long range team. What is it, and what impact will it have on the length of the winter cold? Tune in to find out!
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