SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The deep freeze expected soon in the Midwest, New England and even the South will be one to remember, with potential record-low temperatures heightening fears of frostbite and hypothermia.
It hasn’t been this cold for decades — 20 years in Washington, D.C., 18 years in Milwaukee, 15 in Missouri — even in the Midwest, where bundling up is second nature. Weather Bell meteorologist Ryan Maue said, “If you’re under 40 (years old), you’ve not seen this stuff before.”
Preceded by snow in much of the Midwest, the frigid air will begin today and extend into early next week, funneled as far south as the Gulf Coast. Blame it on a “polar vortex,” as one meteorologist called it, a counterclockwise-rotating pool of cold, dense air.
“It’s just a large area of very cold air that comes down, forms over the North Pole or polar regions … usually stays in Canada, but this time it’s going to come all the way into the eastern United States,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Phillip Schumacher in Sioux Falls, S.D.
The predictions are startling: 25 below zero in Fargo, N.D., minus 31 in International Falls, Minn., and 15 below in Indianapolis and Chicago. At those temperatures, exposed skin can get frostbitten in minutes and hypothermia can quickly set in as wind chills can reach 50, 60 or even 70 below zero.
Even wind chills of 25 below zero can do serious damage, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Truett in St. Louis.
“A person not properly dressed could die easily in those conditions,” he said of the expected wind chill in Missouri at daybreak Monday.
Already, parts of New England dropped into the negatives Saturday, with East Brighton, Vt., seeing 30 below zero just after midnight and Allagash, Maine, hitting minus 36. The cold will sweep through other parts of New England where residents are digging out from a snowstorm.