Over 140 million Americans are bracing this week for the coldest temperatures in nearly 20 years. A “polar vortex” of cold, dense air has the National Weather Service predicting weather 30 to 50 degrees below average in cities across the US. Icy winter conditions have already hit the Midwest over the weekend, resulting in thousands of canceled or delayed flights and preemptively closed schools in Minnesota and Chicago.

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Image © NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

In Wisconsin, a crowd of 70,000 Green Bay Packers fans endured an entire game with a wind chill close to minus 15 degrees. The Packers offered free hand warmers, hot chocolate, and coffee to their fans to thank them for showing up. Illinois has designated 100 “warming centers” statewide for residents who might otherwise end up stuck outside in the cold, with Chicago’s libraries and other city facilities open all night to protect the homeless. In St. Louis, authorities are relying on their reverse 911 system to check in on residents, and sending police officers to follow up with any house that doesn’t pick up the phone.

It’s only set to get worse throughout Tuesday. In some areas, the wind chill is expected to reach as low as 60 degrees below zero, which can cause frostbite on uncovered skin in a matter of mere minutes. Accuweather is predicting between 6-12 inches of snow throughout the Midwest, and icy sleet and rain in the Northeast. Officials have urged residents to stock up on food rather than go outdoors in temperatures they say could be life-threatening. The weather is expected to improve Wednesday, with temperatures slowly rising to near normal by the end of the week.

Via Reuters

Lead image © Noah Sussman