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  • Location: Wrexham
  • Location: Wrexham

Following suit behind Punxsutawney Phil's prediction of six more weeks of winter, a blast of Arctic air infiltrating from Canada has ushered in the coldest air of the winter season across the Plains and Midwest. As a result of a few key atmospheric processes, this blast of cold air will likely settle in for multiple days to come.

Above-average temperatures that were observed across much of the Plains and Upper Midwest to start the month of February will quickly become a distant memory as temperatures some 30-50 degrees Fahrenheit lower will become commonplace over the coming days.

Residents of Rapid City, South Dakota may have had to double check the calendar to make sure it wasn't April this past Wednesday when the high temperature topped out at 59 degrees. A harsh return to reality has already begun to settle into the area as the high temperature only rose to 12 degrees F on Saturday and continue to drop even further by Sunday, with a high temperature of only 6 degrees expected.

"The press of Arctic air will coincide with a large southward lunge of the jet stream associated with a break-off lobe of the polar vortex and should give the frigid weather a free ride into much of the Central states starting this weekend," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson explained, adding, "Reinforcing waves of cold air will arrive through at least the first part of the week."

This southward shift in the polar vortex will yield bone-chilling cold for nearly every city across the Plains and Midwest this weekend and through a majority of the upcoming week.

A multi-day snap of cold weather will undoubtedly prove costly in the form of increased heating demands, as AccuWeather forecasters are calling for temperatures to fall a dozen or more degrees below average for several days. Aside from increased heating demands, bitterly cold air of this magnitude can also prove life-threatening for those caught outside for an extended period of time.

As of early Sunday morning, Chicago had observed its first sub-zero temperatures of the season courtesy of the polar vortex, which is the first time this winter season the city has done so. Through at least Thursday, low temperatures are expected to fall within a few degrees of zero in and around the Windy City.

Speaking of the wind, the bitterly cold air will be accompanied by blustery conditions at times, dropping AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures even further than what the thermometer will read.

Sunday will likely be the harshest day during the upcoming stretch in Chicago. Both the daily record low and lowest high temperature may be in jeopardy. The high on Sunday is predicted to be in the single digits, around 6 F. Subzero high temperatures are not unprecedented in early February, though they are rare. The temperature reached only zero degrees on Feb. 7, way back in 1893. The record low on Sunday of 10 below zero was set in 1875.

Many Midwesterners during the winter will often catch themselves saying that "This weather wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for the wind", and they would be right -- to an extent. Although, bitterly low temperatures of this magnitude may even have some of the hardiest Midwesterners opting to stay inside instead of braving the cold weather.

Hypothermia and frostbite become serious threats in this type of air mass, especially with strong winds blowing or when people are trying to walk or jog. Not only for humans, but for our four-legged friends as well. For those that do venture out, extra layers of protective clothing will be needed to avoid these cold weather hazards.

Cold conditions of this magnitude can also lead to other issues such as freezing and bursting pipes, car battery troubles and potential winter kill of wheat crops in areas with little to no snow cover.

As if the low temperatures weren't enough, rounds of snow will also be a threat in some locations. Quick-hitting storms capable of dropping swaths of accumulating snowfall will traverse along a path from the northern Rockies into the Plains and Midwest into midweek.

Portions of the Plains and Midwest are expected to deal with multiple rounds of wintry weather alongside the bone-chilling temperatures. In the zone of heaviest snowfall, a swath of snowfall totals in excess of a half of a foot are expected in Nebraska by the end of the weekend.

Following the round of snowy conditions to end the weekend, another quick-hitting storm system is expected to ride along the heels of this storm system early this week. Many of the same areas dealing with snow to end the weekend can expect another fresh coasting of snow Monday into Tuesday.

Lake-effect snowfall will also be a concern in the coming days, as the Great Lakes still remain largely ice-free. As of Feb. 6, Great Lakes ice coverage sat at 12.6% coverage, with a majority of that being in the shallower bays. Through the upcoming week, it would come as no surprise to see the ice coverage double.

Despite the lack of ice coverage, it still has not deterred local ice fishermen from attempting to get out and catch a meal. Unfortunately, for some 60 or more ice fisherman on Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, ice floes became detached from the shore this past Thursday amid windy conditions, forcing a rescue effort from the Coast Guard and other local authorities. A similar scenario occurred on Michigan's Saginaw Bay Thursday evening, stranding at least 10 people.

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