Jan 31, 2019

Brutal cold-air outbreak is smashing records in the Midwest

Moline, IL
Angela Fritz
Washington Post
Ice covers the Lake Michigan shoreline on Wednesday in Chicago. Photo: Scott Olson, Getty Images
Ice covers the Lake Michigan shoreline on Wednesday in Chicago. Photo: Scott Olson, Getty Images

Temperatures dove more than 30 degrees below zero Thursday morning in the Midwest in this polar vortex outbreak’s last gasp, driving wind chills to dangerous levels and clobbering long-standing records.


The cold snap is smashing all-time records in Northern Illinois. Moline, Ill., hit a new low late Wednesday night — the lowest temperature the city has ever recorded. The weather station at the Moline Quad-City Airport sent a reading of minus-29 degrees at 11:19 p.m., which was enough to break the record, and then continued to drop even further through the early-morning hours Thursday. As of 7 a.m., the lowest temperature Moline had reached was minus-33 degrees, a full five lower than the old record of minus-28, which was set in 1996.

Rockford, Ill., hit minus-30 degrees at 6:45 a.m. Central Time, which broke the old record of minus-27 set on Jan. 20, 1982.


Norris Camp, in northwestern Minnesota, was the coldest location in the United States on Wednesday after temperatures there dropped to minus-48 degrees, measured by an official with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. With winds blowing at 5 to 10 mph, wind chill would have been around minus-65 degrees. Several other locations in Minnesota and North Dakota plunged to dangerous lows, including Warren, Minn. (minus-47); Lisbon, N.D. (minus-46); and Park Rapids, Minn. (minus-42).

Wednesday was the second-coldest day in Chicago’s history. The maximum temperature, minus-10, was set just after midnight, and then the mercury dropped to minus-24 later in the morning. The combination of those extremes results in a daily average of minus-17, just short of Dec. 24, 1983, when the average temperature was minus-18 in the Windy City.