Mother Nature is playing a cruel joke on Midwesterners, bringing all of the “it’s as cold as …” similes out for another go-round on social media. Meteorologists call this weather pattern that makes even the hardiest of Midwesterners want to be like bears and hibernate until it’s safe to poke their heads out of their warm winter dens a “polar vortex.”
All you really need to know about a polar vortex, even one that’s fractured like this one, is that it sends stupid-cold air down from the Arctic. This year, the cold weather is affecting almost everywhere but southern California, where people are claiming they’re cold, too, and are wearing wetsuits when they surf — as if that’s somehow the same as struggling to walk around in double-down parkas and mittens, flannel-lined pants, UGG(ly) boots, face masks and beaver fur hats.
Snowfall — and there’s a lot of it in some areas— and daytime highs struggling to make it out of the single digits are a minor inconvenience compared with what’s coming.
Mid-week forecasts in the Midwest are brutal with predictions of the coldest weather in 25 years. Wind chill values are expected to fall as low as -55 — fifty-five. degrees. below. zero. — Wednesday night and Thursday morning, according to The Weather Channel. In some areas of Minnesota, it could feel as cold as minus 60 degrees which would set a record for the coldest wind blowing through the state.
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Calling the wind chill values “possibly life threatening,” the National Weather Service issued advisories for prolonged dangerous cold for a large swath of the central United States, stretching from North Dakota to Missouri and spanning into Ohio.
The feels-like temperature is the number you need to keep in mind, though the actual temperatures aren’t anything to take lightly. Forecasters say the actual temperature will dip into the minus 20s in the Twin Cities, Milwaukee, Chicago and Des Moines, Iowa, Wednesday into Thursday, and by late week, the Ohio Valley and interior Northeast could see subzero cold.
When was the last time it was this cold? Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota, saw minus 25 degree temperatures on Dec. 26, 1996; Chicago and Des Moines saw minus 20 degree temperatures on Jan. 18, 1994, and Feb. 4, 1996, respectively; and Detroit saw minus 15 degree temperatures on Jan. 16, 2009.
While Midwesterners are shivering and worrying their faces will freeze — this is no joke, in temperatures like this, frostbite can occur on exposed skin within five minutes of exposure — it may (but probably won’t) help to know it’s practically mild compared to how cold it was on these dates:
The Weather Channel said in 2016 that temperatures had plunged below zero at some point in the history of every state except Hawaii — although a chilly 15 degrees was recorded on Jan. 5, 1975, at the Mauna Kea Observatories.
Forecasters warned — we are not making this up; the headline on a Hawaii News Now story actually said it — “Bundle up, Hawaii: Wintry weather on the way.”
Oh. Come. On. The National Weather Service said temperatures on the islands would struggle to reach the 80-degree mark and lows would dip into the low 60s and upper 50s in some areas, and as low as the 40s in higher elevations.
We can’t even. It’s so mind-numbingly cold in the Midwest that to take their minds off how cold it is, people are doing this:
(Beth Dalbey of Patch’s national staff lives in Des Moines, Iowa, and was wearing most of her winter wardrobe as she wrote this.)
Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images