Published: December 15, 2016
A bitter cold arctic air mass has swept through a large swath of the central and eastern states to close out the workweek, sending wind chills into the teens, 20s and 30s below zero in some locations. Extreme cold will continue this weekend as an even more frigid blast of arctic air plunges into the central states on the heels of Winter Storm Decima.
(MORE: Another Winter Storm in the Midwest)
Some locations have seen or could see their coldest December temperatures in several years, and some record lows may be threatened.
(MORE: What the Wind Chill Really Means)
Current Wind Chills
Arctic Cold Round #1: Through FridayGreat Falls, Montana, recorded its tenth straight day in a row with subzero lows on Wednesday morning. That is longest such streak there since February 1996.
Thursday morning, subzero low temperatures were recorded as far south as Iowa, northern Illinois and northern Indiana. Winds chills in the 20s and 30s below zero were widespread throughout the Upper Midwest.
Chicago saw its first December subzero low temperature since Dec. 24, 2013. The mercury plunged to minus 20 degrees in Grand Forks, North Dakota, making it the coldest December reading in the city since Dec. 23, 2013.
Temperatures held in the 20s on Thursday afternoon along the Interstate 95 corridor from Boston to Washington, D.C. A large number of cities from the interior Northeast to the Great Lakes and Upper Midwest saw afternoon readings in the single digits or teens, including Chicago, Minneapolis and Pittsburgh.
Friday morning looks to be the coldest for many Northeast cities, with lows 15-30 degrees below average. Single digits above and below zero are expected in parts of upstate New York, northern/western Pennsylvania and New England. Wind chills will be in the single digits, teens and even a few 20s below zero across the interior Northeast and New England Friday morning. A few places in northern New England could see wind chills in the 30s below zero.
Forecast Morning Lows
(FORECAST: Bismarck, North Dakota | Chicago | Minneapolis | Boston | New York)
- Boston: A low of 8 degrees or colder would be the lowest official December temperature in the city since 2004.
- Pittsburgh: The first single-digit December low temperature since Dec. 31, 2009 (9 degrees), is possible Friday morning.
- Washington, D.C.: A low in the teens Friday morning would be the first time the mercury has dipped below 20 degrees there in December since Dec. 23, 2008.
Arctic Cold Round #2: This WeekendThe second plunge of arctic air will begin seeping south of the Canadian border and into the northern Plains (western Dakotas, Montana) on Friday. That cold air will spread east and south across the Midwest and Plains during the upcoming weekend and into early next week.
This weekend's temperatures will be the coldest we've seen so far this month in some locales, and daily record lows may be threatened.
Forecast Highs This Weekend
(MAPS: 10-Day Forecast)
- Lows: Temperatures in the teens and 20s below zero will infiltrate areas from Montana to the Dakotas and the upper Mississippi Valley this weekend. In some locations, this will be 20-45 degrees below mid-December average lows. Single digits below zero may surge into the Front Range of Colorado, Kansas, northern Missouri and northern Illinois on Sunday morning. By Monday morning, lows in the teens and single digits below zero could continue the Great Lakes and upper Mississippi Valley.
- Highs: Afternoon readings may not rise above zero in the northern Plains, upper Midwest and western Great Lakes this weekend, including Minneapolis and Fargo, North Dakota.
- This round of arctic air will move into the Northeast early next week, but it won't be as cold as we will see in the Midwest.
Forecast Low Temperatures Compared to Average Sunday
Cold Perspective For This Weekend
- Chicago: There is a chance that the Windy City may see a subzero high temperature on Sunday. The last high temperature that was below zero there was in January 2014. The last below-zero high temperature there in December was in 1983.
- Bismarck, North Dakota: Saturday's high may be in the teens below zero. The last time they recorded a high in the double digits below zero in December was 2008. They haven't had a high in the teens below zero in any month since January 2010.
- Minneapolis: If the mercury plunges into the 20s below zero, that would be the first time it's happened there in December since 1996. The last 20s below zero in the Twin Cities for any month occurred in January 2014.
Will Any Record Lows Be Set?Some daily record lows could be approached in the Midwest this weekend into Monday. Below are a few examples with the record to beat for each city on that respective day shown.
- Saturday: Bismarck, North Dakota (-27 degrees); Omaha, Nebraska (-9 degrees)
- Sunday: Aberdeen, South Dakota (-28 degrees); Minneapolis (-24 degrees)
- Monday: Chicago (-14 degrees); Detroit (-6 degrees)