A polar vortex from the North Pole is causing extremely cold weather in the Midwest this week. The vortex, which is a cyclonic air mass that typically hangs out over Canada has swept down over the Great Lakes according to NOAA to cause extremely cold weather that’s more typical of Antarctica and not the United States. It is so cold in some states like Minnesota that ski resorts and ice rinks have been closed as it is simply too dangerous to be outdoors. The state of Minnesota has also closed down all its public schools due to the cold weather. The temperature in the Twin Cities was already at -11 Sunday evening but the wind gusts made it feel like it was -31.
Life-threatening cold weather will prevail early this week in the Midwest and across other portions of the country as well. In fact, much of the US will see the coldest temperatures in nearly two decades according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures are expected to be 30 to 50 degrees below average in several cities including Minneapolis, Chicago, Indianapolis and Detroit. Nearly 3,000 flights were grounded in the country on Sunday due to blowing snow and ice. Thus far, eleven people have lost their lives in road accidents due to the winter weather.
The good news coming out of all this is that the bitterly cold temperatures will only stick around for a couple of days as the cold snap in the Midwest should end by Wednesday. But in the meantime, officials across the Midwest are warning people to take extreme caution when spending time outdoors as it only takes a few short minutes to get frostbite when the temperatures are bitterly cold. In Michigan, many areas of the lower peninsula are under winter storm warnings as snowfall amounts from this storm could be high. If 12 inches of snow does fall in the Detroit metro area as many forecasters believe, it will put this winter storm in the top 10 for highest amounts of snowfall from just one storm.
Grocery and hardware stores across the Midwest did very brisk business over the weekend as people were stocking up on essentials in preparation for heavy snow and cold temperatures. Forecasts of 30 below wind chills have moved food off grocery shelves very quickly and people were buying much more than just bread, eggs and milk. Many grocery chains reported that they could not keep produce counters and canned good shelves stocked as many customers swarmed in to grab up a variety of food items for what may be the deepest cold snap in decades.