One of the coldest air masses in years will envelop the Midwest and the Northeast this week bringing potentially life-threatening low temperatures to the Chicago area that will feel even harsher in tandem with strong winds.
In Chicago, the coldest temperatures of the year will arrive midweek. After seeing a high around 34 on Monday at O’Hare International Airport, temperatures will drop to near zero before the end of the day, according to the National Weather Service. By Tuesday night, temperatures are expected to take another plunge, to 23 below zero, flirting with Chicago’s coldest temperature ever: minus 27 on Jan. 20, 1985.
Temperatures are forecast to inch up to a daytime high of about minus 14 on Wednesday — the first subzero high temperature in five years and the coldest winter high ever recorded in Chicago — before dipping, again, to about minus 21 overnight. The coldest daytime high in Chicago was minus 11 on Christmas Eve 1983.
For younger Chicagoans, the burst of Arctic air set to overtake the city this week could be one of the coldest days of their lives. For Generation Z, this week’s predicted low temperatures have only two rivals: minus 16 on Jan. 6, 2014, and minus 19 on Feb. 3, 1996.
The lows Tuesday and Wednesday could break records set in 1966. They’ll also feel much worse with wind gusts up to 30 mph, which will make it feel as low as negative 50 degrees, according to the weather service.
But there could be as much as a 30-degree disparity from the north to the south end of the state, while lakefront communities could get a small reprieve, said Brian Kerschner, a spokesman for the Illinois State Climatologist Office. But that largely depends on how much ice cover there is on Lake Michigan.