CHICAGO – Two of the most feared words in a weather forecast for the Midwest – "Polar Vortex" – returned this week, promising life-threatening low temperatures that could break records and plunge much of the region into the deepest freezing for decades. 19659002] Gov. Wisconsin's Tony Evers declared an emergency and called on the National Guard to help. The University of Notre Dame announced that it has closed its campus in northern Indiana from Tuesday evening to Thursday afternoon. In Chicago, city officials used buses as mobile heat centers and gave tips on how to thaw frozen pipes (hair dryers work well, they said, but do not use an open flame).
The forecasters expect Wednesday high temperatures (yes, the high) will be 14 degrees Fahrenheit in Chicago and Minneapolis. If the forecast is true, this would be the lowest temperature in Chicago for a single day since officials began to keep records. It was expected that an expected low of minus 22 would reach the lowest temperature ever measured in Chicago, but would not be exceeded. Officials predicted that wind chill values could drop to minus 50 in Chicago and minus 60 in Minneapolis.
"That's what you'd expect when you come to central and northern Canada," said Brian Hurley, a National Weather Service meteorologist. 19659002] The vortex, a brutal mass of cold air with strong winds, has spread in recent weeks from its normal location near the North Pole to the south, bringing Arctic weather to the center of the United States. Such weather events have become more frequent in recent years; Scientists are not sure why, but some suspect a link to climate change.
In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel made Monday's comparison with winter 2013/14, when the city was plagued by icy weather and referred to as "Chiberia". This is the result of another polar vortex. This year's vortex could bring even lower temperatures.
"All hands are on deck," Emanuel said, adding that he coordinated with state officials to help homeless people living on highways.
Throughout the region, social service agencies and local governments are bouncing to warn elderly and disabled residents and homeless people of the upcoming weather. Officials in South Bend, Ind., Promise to open a heat center. In Peoria, Illinois, landlords were warned to provide the tenants with heat. And in Minnesota, groups mobilized to encourage homeless people to seek refuge.
"The approach to this really bitter cold is that providers are very, very flexible and open and willing," said Christine Michels, senior program director at Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, who operate shelters.
Preparations for the bitter cold on Monday were hampered by a rapid snowstorm that blew across the Great Lakes and covered several centimeters in the big cities.
In Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Minneapolis public schools broke off Monday's teaching. Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan sent most government officials home early. And in Chicago, where cars on side roads were hard to maneuver, even some dogs put on boots.
"We get a lot of snow in a very short time," said Mayor Andy Schor of Lansing, Michigan, in a statement Monday when he declared a snow emergency. "People need to stay away from the street so we can clear them out."
Late in the afternoon, as the snow pushed east, more than 1,600 flights had been canceled nationwide at or from one of Chicago's two airports, according to FlightAware.
Temperatures were expected to drop rapidly on Monday night and then worsen. Hurley said the worst polar vortex is expected to extend west from northern Illinois and Wisconsin through Minnesota, Iowa and the eastern Dakota, settling late Tuesday through Thursday.
For many children and young adults – even hearty Midwesterner who are very familiar with harsh winters – this week should be the coldest weather of their lives. Hurley said that since 1994, such low temperatures have not been recorded in many cities in the Midwest. Against this backdrop, schools and government agencies announced plans to close down, as officials urged people to stay at home and, if possible, work from home. The Minneapolis School District has announced closures on Tuesday and Wednesday, and the University of Iowa has canceled classes from Tuesday night until Thursday afternoon. The United States Bankruptcy Court for the northern district of Illinois has canceled its Wednesday certificate. And Chicago Eagle Planetarium announced it would be closed on Wednesday and Thursday.
The polar vortex also prompted emergency preparations and school cancellations in the south, where temperatures were expected to be significantly less polar, but residents were less used to dealing with the cold.
In Louisiana, where meteorologists were forecasting 1 to 2 inches of snow, the Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Board said it had activated its crisis response team. Governor Kay Ivey of Alabama declared the state of emergency.
The most appeared officials in Georgia, where on Sunday the Super Bowl will take place. Governor Brian P. Kemp said state offices would be closed on Tuesday in 35 counties, including some in the Atlanta area, as parts of the state were preparing for ice and up to two inches of snow.
But in Chicago, where Wednesday is It was expected that the high temperatures were 55 degrees lower than those of Atlanta, the warnings were much grimmer.
"This will not only be irritating – it will be literally dangerous," said Mr. Skilling, the meteorologist. "These expressions are sometimes laxly thrown around, but this is really a dangerous slowdown."