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Heavy snow hitting parts of Midwest; dangerous cold coming

Published
Chicago's El trains move along snow-covered tracks Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Chicago. The plunging temperatures expected later this week that have forecasters especially concerned. Wind chills could dip to negative 55 degrees in northern Illinois, which the National Weather Service calls

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Heavy snow and powerful wind created blizzard-like conditions Monday across parts of the Midwest, prompting officials to cancel about 1,000 flights at Chicago's airports and close hundreds of schools. But forecasters warned the most dangerous weather is yet to come: frigidly low temperatures that the region hasn't seen in a quarter century.

Snowplow drivers had trouble keeping up with the snow in Minnesota and Wisconsin, where some areas got as much as 15 inches (38 centimeters). Chicago-area commuters woke up to heavy snowfall, with more than 5 inches (12.7 centimeters) already on the ground. In Michigan, non-essential government offices were closed, including the Capitol.

But the snow is only "part one, and maybe even the easier part" because temperatures will plummet over the next three days, said Brian Hurley, a meteorologist with the Weather Prediction Center.

Wednesday is expected to be the worst. Wind chills in northern Illinois could fall to negative 55 degrees (negative 48 degrees Celsius), which the National Weather Service called "possibly life threatening." Minnesota temperatures could hit minus 30 degrees (negative 34 degrees Celsius) with a wind chill of negative 60 (negative 51 degrees Celsius).

"You're talking about frostbite and hypothermia issues very quickly, like in a matter of minutes, maybe seconds," Hurley said.

The potentially record-breaking low temperature forecast in Milwaukee is negative 28 degrees (negative 33 degrees Celsius), with a wind chill as low as negative 50 (negative 45 degrees Celsius). The current record of minus 26 degrees (negative 32 degrees Celsius) was set in 1996.

"That's 40 degrees below normal," Hurley said. "When you think about it in that sense, that's a big 'whoa.'"

Cold weather advisories are in effect across a broad swath of the central U.S., from North Dakota to Missouri and spanning into Ohio. Temperatures will be as many as 20 degrees below average in parts of the Upper Great Lakes region and Upper Mississippi Valley, according to the National Weather Service.

The unusually frigid weather is attributed to a sudden warming way above the North Pole. A sudden blast of warm air from misplaced Moroccan heat last month made the normally super chilly air temperatures 20 miles (32 kilometers) above the North Pole rapidly rise about 125 degrees (70 degrees Celsius). That split the polar vortex into pieces, which then started to wander, according to Judah Cohen, a winter storm expert for Atmospheric Environmental Research, a commercial firm outside Boston. One of those polar vortex pieces is responsible for the sub-zero temperatures across the Midwest this week.

Homeless shelters were preparing for the onslaught of cold. The Milwaukee Rescue Mission's call volume was "unusually high," but there should still be enough beds for those who need them, said the mission's president, Pat Vanderburgh.

"We are being especially vigilant during the night," he said. "Monitoring our doors, our security are going out on the street, we're partnering individuals that go out proactively looking out for homeless individuals and sharing with them winter clothes and food."

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel urged residents to check on their neighbors and take safety precautions. He said city agencies are making sure homeless people are in shelters or offered space in warming buses.

Hundreds of schools were closed across Michigan as road conditions deteriorated, including Eastern Michigan University. The largest public school districts in Wisconsin and Minnesota also were among those closed, including districts in Milwaukee and St. Paul. Minneapolis Public Schools announced there would be no classes through Wednesday. The cold also prompted officials to close some schools in eastern Iowa, while Chicago Public Schools officials said they were monitoring the weather ahead of Wednesday's cold snap.

In eastern North Dakota, officials have issued travel alerts because of blowing snow. The Minnesota State Patrol was responding to scores of spinouts and crashes early Monday in the Twin Cities metro area because of snow-covered and icy roads.

More than 800 flights were cancelled at Chicago O'Hare International Airport Monday morning and Midway International Airport canceled more than 220. The high temperature forecast at O'Hare on Wednesday is negative 14 degrees (negative 25 degrees Celsius), which would break a record set on Jan. 18, 1994.

Even the fabled "frozen tundra" of Lambeau Field, home to the NFL's Green Bay Packers, wasn't able to withstand the heavy snow and wind that closed hundreds of businesses, schools and government offices in Wisconsin. The stadium said tours, the Packers Hall of Fame and other related businesses were closed Monday.

Courthouses and most offices were closed in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Columbia and Washington counties, while more than three dozen flights were canceled early Monday at the Milwaukee area's largest airport, Mitchell International Airport.

Rare snowfall was also forecast for some southern states . Forecasters warned of up to 3 inches of snow in central Mississippi and Alabama by Tuesday morning and said temperatures will plummet as arctic cold blasts southward. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a state of emergency ahead of the storm.

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For the latest updates on weather: https://bit.ly/2FVf5QY

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Associated Press reporters Caryn Rousseau in Chicago, Gretchen Ehlke in Milwaukee and David Runk in Detroit contributed to this report.

Gary Verstegen clears a sidewalk as a winter storm moves through Wisconsin on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Little Chute, Wis. (William Glasheen/The Post-Crescent via AP)
Morning commuters face a tough slog on Wacker Drive in Chicago, Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. (Rich Hein/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)
Abby O'Brien, left, and Spencer Couser shovel snow from their sidewalk during a snowstorm Monday, January 28, 2019, in Manitowoc, Wis. (Joshua Clark/The Post-Crescent via AP)
Tow truck personnel work to remove an overturned semi in the median of Interstate 90 at mile marker 218 near the U.S. Highway 52 exit Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, southeast of Rochester, Minn. According to Sgt. Troy Christianson, with the Minnesota State Patrol, the semi was eastbound and went straight off the gradual curve into the median because of blowing snow. Sgt. Christianson said there were no injuries in the crash. (Joe Ahlquist/The Rochester Post-Bulletin via AP)
Bill Stalvey, of Manitowoc, clears the sidewalk in front of his shop, B & B Off Road and Performance RC, during a winter storm Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Manitowoc, Wis. (Joshua Clark/The Post-Crescent via AP)
United States Postal Service letter carrier Keith Caniff sorts mail on his route in East Grand Rapids, Mich., Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. (Neil Blake/The Grand Rapids Press via AP)
Commuters wait for a train as snow falls Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Chicago. The plunging temperatures expected later this week that have forecasters especially concerned. Wind chills could dip to negative 55 degrees in northern Illinois, which the National Weather Service calls
Mary Becker walks her dogs, Reggie, and Archie, at Lake Park near her home in Milwaukee on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. Heavy snow and gusting winds created blizzard-like conditions Monday across parts of the Midwest, prompting officials to close hundreds of schools, courthouses and businesses as forecasters warn that dangerously cold weather is right behind the snowstorm. (Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP)
Mike Powers cross country skis to work in downtown Traverse City, Mich, as snow blankets the Grand Traverse area on Monday, Jan 28, 2019. (Jan-Michael Stump/Traverse City Record-Eagle via AP)
Reflections of a snowy city are seen in the 110-ton stainless steel Anish Kapoor sculpture called 'Cloud Gate' and nicknamed 'The Bean' at Millennium Park in Chicago, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. More than with many snowstorms Chicagoans have endured in recent history, where you live will greatly impact how much snow you arise to Monday morning, forecasters said. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
A woman walks across the snowy University of Minnesota campus near Dinkytown neighborhood in Minneapolis on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. A winter storm pushing across the Upper Midwest is expected to dump more than a foot of snow in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin. (Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune via AP)
Adam Fischer shovels out his vehicle to go to work Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Rochester, Minn. Heavy snow and gusting winds created blizzard-like conditions Monday across parts of the Midwest, prompting officials to close hundreds of schools, courthouses and businesses, and ground air travel. (Joe Ahlquist/The Rochester Post-Bulletin via AP)
An employee of Pozorski Hauling & Recycling collects trash during a snowstorm Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Manitowoc, Wis. (Joshua Clark/The Post-Crescent via AP)
Crystal Oestreich, of Manitowoc, shovels her neighbor's driveway during a snowstorm Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Manitowoc, Wis. (Joshua Clark/The Post-Crescent via AP)
A plow removes snow along West Wisconsin Avenue at North 8th Street in Milwaukee on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. Heavy snow and gusting winds created blizzard-like conditions Monday across parts of the Midwest, prompting officials to close hundreds of schools, courthouses and businesses as forecasters warn that dangerously cold weather is right behind the snowstorm. (Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP)
Pedestrians cross an icy Chicago River on Madison St. near the Civic Opera House in Chicago, Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. (Rich Hein/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)
A person navigates a snowy Adams St. on a Divvy bicycle in Chicago, Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. (Rich Hein/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)
Chicago's El trains move along snow-covered tracks Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Chicago. The plunging temperatures expected later this week that have forecasters especially concerned. Wind chills could dip to negative 55 degrees in northern Illinois, which the National Weather Service calls
Chicago's El trains move along snow-covered tracks Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Chicago. The plunging temperatures expected later this week that have forecasters especially concerned. Wind chills could dip to negative 55 degrees in northern Illinois, which the National Weather Service calls "possibly life threatening." (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
Adam Fischer shovels out his vehicle to go to work Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Rochester, Minn. Heavy snow and gusting winds created blizzard-like conditions Monday across parts of the Midwest, prompting officials to close hundreds of schools, courthouses and businesses, and ground air travel. (Joe Ahlquist/The Rochester Post-Bulletin via AP)
Adam Fischer shovels out his vehicle to go to work Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Rochester, Minn. Heavy snow and gusting winds created blizzard-like conditions Monday across parts of the Midwest, prompting officials to close hundreds of schools, courthouses and businesses, and ground air travel. (Joe Ahlquist/The Rochester Post-Bulletin via AP)
Morning commuters face a tough slog on Wacker Drive in Chicago, Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. (Rich Hein/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)
Morning commuters face a tough slog on Wacker Drive in Chicago, Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. (Rich Hein/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)
Reflections of a snowy city are seen in the 110-ton stainless steel Anish Kapoor sculpture called 'Cloud Gate' and nicknamed 'The Bean' at Millennium Park in Chicago, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. More than with many snowstorms Chicagoans have endured in recent history, where you live will greatly impact how much snow you arise to Monday morning, forecasters said. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Reflections of a snowy city are seen in the 110-ton stainless steel Anish Kapoor sculpture called 'Cloud Gate' and nicknamed 'The Bean' at Millennium Park in Chicago, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. More than with many snowstorms Chicagoans have endured in recent history, where you live will greatly impact how much snow you arise to Monday morning, forecasters said. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Tow truck personnel work to remove an overturned semi in the median of Interstate 90 at mile marker 218 near the U.S. Highway 52 exit Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, southeast of Rochester, Minn. According to Sgt. Troy Christianson, with the Minnesota State Patrol, the semi was eastbound and went straight off the gradual curve into the median because of blowing snow. Sgt. Christianson said there were no injuries in the crash. (Joe Ahlquist/The Rochester Post-Bulletin via AP)
Tow truck personnel work to remove an overturned semi in the median of Interstate 90 at mile marker 218 near the U.S. Highway 52 exit Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, southeast of Rochester, Minn. According to Sgt. Troy Christianson, with the Minnesota State Patrol, the semi was eastbound and went straight off the gradual curve into the median because of blowing snow. Sgt. Christianson said there were no injuries in the crash. (Joe Ahlquist/The Rochester Post-Bulletin via AP)
Crystal Oestreich, of Manitowoc, shovels her neighbor's driveway during a snowstorm Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Manitowoc, Wis. (Joshua Clark/The Post-Crescent via AP)
Crystal Oestreich, of Manitowoc, shovels her neighbor's driveway during a snowstorm Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Manitowoc, Wis. (Joshua Clark/The Post-Crescent via AP)
A plow removes snow along West Wisconsin Avenue at North 8th Street in Milwaukee on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. Heavy snow and gusting winds created blizzard-like conditions Monday across parts of the Midwest, prompting officials to close hundreds of schools, courthouses and businesses as forecasters warn that dangerously cold weather is right behind the snowstorm. (Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP)
A plow removes snow along West Wisconsin Avenue at North 8th Street in Milwaukee on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. Heavy snow and gusting winds created blizzard-like conditions Monday across parts of the Midwest, prompting officials to close hundreds of schools, courthouses and businesses as forecasters warn that dangerously cold weather is right behind the snowstorm. (Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP)
A person navigates a snowy Adams St. on a Divvy bicycle in Chicago, Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. (Rich Hein/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)
A person navigates a snowy Adams St. on a Divvy bicycle in Chicago, Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. (Rich Hein/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)
Gary Verstegen clears a sidewalk as a winter storm moves through Wisconsin on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Little Chute, Wis. (William Glasheen/The Post-Crescent via AP)
Gary Verstegen clears a sidewalk as a winter storm moves through Wisconsin on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Little Chute, Wis. (William Glasheen/The Post-Crescent via AP)
A woman walks across the snowy University of Minnesota campus near Dinkytown neighborhood in Minneapolis on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. A winter storm pushing across the Upper Midwest is expected to dump more than a foot of snow in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin. (Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune via AP)
A woman walks across the snowy University of Minnesota campus near Dinkytown neighborhood in Minneapolis on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. A winter storm pushing across the Upper Midwest is expected to dump more than a foot of snow in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin. (Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune via AP)
Pedestrians cross an icy Chicago River on Madison St. near the Civic Opera House in Chicago, Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. (Rich Hein/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)
Pedestrians cross an icy Chicago River on Madison St. near the Civic Opera House in Chicago, Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. (Rich Hein/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)
Bill Stalvey, of Manitowoc, clears the sidewalk in front of his shop, B & B Off Road and Performance RC, during a winter storm Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Manitowoc, Wis. (Joshua Clark/The Post-Crescent via AP)
Bill Stalvey, of Manitowoc, clears the sidewalk in front of his shop, B & B Off Road and Performance RC, during a winter storm Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Manitowoc, Wis. (Joshua Clark/The Post-Crescent via AP)
Mike Powers cross country skis to work in downtown Traverse City, Mich, as snow blankets the Grand Traverse area on Monday, Jan 28, 2019. (Jan-Michael Stump/Traverse City Record-Eagle via AP)
Mike Powers cross country skis to work in downtown Traverse City, Mich, as snow blankets the Grand Traverse area on Monday, Jan 28, 2019. (Jan-Michael Stump/Traverse City Record-Eagle via AP)
Mary Becker walks her dogs, Reggie, and Archie, at Lake Park near her home in Milwaukee on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. Heavy snow and gusting winds created blizzard-like conditions Monday across parts of the Midwest, prompting officials to close hundreds of schools, courthouses and businesses as forecasters warn that dangerously cold weather is right behind the snowstorm. (Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP)
Mary Becker walks her dogs, Reggie, and Archie, at Lake Park near her home in Milwaukee on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. Heavy snow and gusting winds created blizzard-like conditions Monday across parts of the Midwest, prompting officials to close hundreds of schools, courthouses and businesses as forecasters warn that dangerously cold weather is right behind the snowstorm. (Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP)
United States Postal Service letter carrier Keith Caniff sorts mail on his route in East Grand Rapids, Mich., Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. (Neil Blake/The Grand Rapids Press via AP)
United States Postal Service letter carrier Keith Caniff sorts mail on his route in East Grand Rapids, Mich., Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. (Neil Blake/The Grand Rapids Press via AP)
Abby O'Brien, left, and Spencer Couser shovel snow from their sidewalk during a snowstorm Monday, January 28, 2019, in Manitowoc, Wis. (Joshua Clark/The Post-Crescent via AP)
Abby O'Brien, left, and Spencer Couser shovel snow from their sidewalk during a snowstorm Monday, January 28, 2019, in Manitowoc, Wis. (Joshua Clark/The Post-Crescent via AP)
An employee of Pozorski Hauling & Recycling collects trash during a snowstorm Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Manitowoc, Wis. (Joshua Clark/The Post-Crescent via AP)
An employee of Pozorski Hauling & Recycling collects trash during a snowstorm Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Manitowoc, Wis. (Joshua Clark/The Post-Crescent via AP)
Commuters wait for a train as snow falls Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Chicago. The plunging temperatures expected later this week that have forecasters especially concerned. Wind chills could dip to negative 55 degrees in northern Illinois, which the National Weather Service calls
Commuters wait for a train as snow falls Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Chicago. The plunging temperatures expected later this week that have forecasters especially concerned. Wind chills could dip to negative 55 degrees in northern Illinois, which the National Weather Service calls "possibly life threatening." (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)