Thursday, January 23, 2020
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This is NOT the coldest it’s ever been

Heavy snow caused several Illinois school districts to cancel classes Monday, but a polar vortex hanging over the Midwest and Northeast will cause temps to plunge to some of the most bitter, possibly life-threatening cold the region has ever experienced.

The lowest temperature ever officially recorded in Chicago, for instance, is –27°F, achieved on January 20, 1985. Temperatures Tuesday night and Wednesday morning are expected to drop to –23°F, the Chicago Tribune reports.

“Occasionally this ring of winds deforms or even splits, which allows the cold air to spill southward over mid latitudes,” the paper quoted Jennifer Francis, a senior research scientist with Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts, as saying about the polar vortex. “This is exactly what’s happening now: It just so happens that the lobe of cold air is located over central North America, with Chicago in the crosshairs.”

In addition to classes, many meetings and community activities for young people have been cancelled in and around Chicago. And unless you’re 34 or older, this week will bring the coldest temps you have ever felt around Chicago.


Conditions were expected to be very hazardous across the upper Midwest and the Northeast as the storm moves eastward. The National Weather Service in Chicago tweeted Monday that the storm could be expected to “cause very hazardous travel conditions thru commute. Visibility < ¼ mi at times in open areas due to snow/blowing snow. Snow on top of some ice that fell in & near #Chicago. Leading edge of precip in NW IN may be freezing drizzle changing to snow.”

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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