MIAMI – South Florida has had a taste of winter recently, with Monday being one of the coldest afternoons in 5 years (Afternoon temperatures were in the upper 50s… coolest since Jan 7, 2014).
But what those in the north are about to experience hasn’t occurred since the mid-1990s. Some spots may not see afternoon high temperatures reach above zero for days.
In meteorology, we sometimes discuss something known as the Polar Vortex. This is nothing uncommon or special… it is simply an area of low pressure at the mid and upper levels of the atmosphere that circles the poles.
In the US, we focus on the one circling the North Pole. Most of the time, this vortex spins rapidly and remains tightly-wound over the Arctic. But sometimes it weakens, allowing it to move. Today and Wednesday, a portion of it will be right over the Great Lakes… way south of its typical Arctic home.
With this movement comes a prolonged stretch of absolutely BRUTAL cold. Minneapolis is expected to plunge to -30 Tuesday night. Wind chills could hit -60. Chicago may see a HIGH temperature of -15 Wednesday, and may not rise above zero for several days. The Northeast won’t be hit as hard, but single-digit lows are in the forecast for both Boston and New York Wednesday night.
At temperatures this cold, weird things happen. Diesel fuel turns to gel. Water mains burst and pressure drops, so firefighters have trouble fighting blazes. Car batteries die. Frostbite sets in just minutes. This truly is a deadly weather setup.
South Florida will not feel much from this could outbreak, despite the intensity of this arctic air mass. It will slide east toward the Atlantic, not south toward Miami. Our nights will remain in the 50s in the near-term.