Polar vortex brings coldest air in a generation

By Meg Wagner, Brian Ries, Amanda Wills and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 9:53 a.m. ET, June 14, 2019
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1:39 p.m. ET, January 29, 2019

It's so cold in Wisconsin already, boiling water is freezing instantly

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

It was -5 degrees in Wausau, Wisconsin, when Andy Reiche conducted a mini-science experiment. He threw boiling water thrown into the air — and it immediately turned into ice.

This isn't even the coldest Wausau will be over the next two days. It's forecasted to drop to -26.


1:06 p.m. ET, January 29, 2019

7 numbers that prove just how frigid this Arctic air is

From CNN's Dave Hennen

It's cold across the US. A mammoth blast of frigid air sweeping through the Midwest is headed toward the East, on track to shatter dozens of records along the way.

How frigid is this freeze? Here's a look at the numbers behind this blast of Arctic air:

  • 212 million: The number of people who will see temperatures drop below freezing over the next few days (that's 72% of the continental US population)
  • 83 million: The number of people who will experience below-zero temperatures
  • 100 million: The number of people under wind chill warnings, watches or advisories
  • 1,600 miles: The length of this outbreak — from the Dakotas to Long Island
  • -65 to -70 degrees: The forecast wind chills tonight in northern Minnesota (It could rival the coldest wind chill ever recorded in the state, which was 71 degrees below zero in 1982)
  • -15 degrees: Chicago's forecast high tomorrow — which will be the coldest high temperature ever recorded (The previous record was -11 in 1994)
  • -35 to -40 degrees: The forecast in some parts of Northern Illinois (This will likely set the record for the coldest temperature ever recorded in the state)
12:23 p.m. ET, January 29, 2019

So far, almost 1,100 flights have been canceled today

So far today, 1,097 flights into, out of or within the US have been canceled, according to FlightAware.

Another 999 flights have been delayed.

Here's a look at where FlightAware is seeing the worst delays:

11:45 a.m. ET, January 29, 2019

Buffalo's lake effect snow is so intense, some drivers are pulling over

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

Andy Colombo saw the clouds ahead of him on Highway 78 outside of Buffalo, New York, and knew what he was heading into: Lake effect snow bands.

Things got so bad, he had to pull over and wait.

"With the wind, it got a little intense," he told CNN.  

He shot before-and-after videos of the lake effect snow.

Here's the before shot:

Colombo's video inside the lake effect snow band:

11:26 a.m. ET, January 29, 2019

The breakdown of the polar vortex could be caused by climate change

From CNN's Judson Jones and Brandon Miller

The coldest air in a generation is spilling out across the US thanks to a breakdown in the polar vortex.

But is it a side effect of global warming?

This is a hotly researched topic. In short, yes, it could be. It seems counterintuitive that global warming could cause significant cold snaps like this one, but some research shows that it could. 

We know that different types of extreme weather can result from the overall warming of the planet, melting of the Arctic Sea ice, etc.

This includes extreme distortions of the jet stream, which can cause heat waves in summer and cold snaps in winter. 

You can read more about the polar vortex here.

1:05 p.m. ET, January 30, 2019

Chicago will be colder than parts of Alaska — and parts of Antarctica

Commuters wait for a train as snow falls Monday in Chicago.
Commuters wait for a train as snow falls Monday in Chicago. AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato

Chicago is one of the cities "in the epicenter of the extreme cold," CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said. It could remain below zero in the city from around noon today until around midday on Friday.

And tomorrow, Chicago will be colder than parts of Alaska and Antarctica.

  • Chicago's high tomorrow is -13, and the city will see a low of -24. (Wind chill will make it feel as low as -48.)
  • Meanwhile, Priestley Glacier, Antarctica, will see a high of 6 and a low of -7.
  • And Barrow, Alaska, (which is also known as Utqiagvik) is expected to have a high of -6 and a low of -12.
10:28 a.m. ET, January 29, 2019

The polar vortex is to blame for this frigid weather

From CNN's Judson Jones

You're going to hear the term "polar vortex" a lot this week. It's not a winter storm — but it is what's responsible for freezing temperature across the Midwest and East Coast.

What is the polar vortex anyway? The polar vortex, as it sounds, is circulation of strong, upper-level winds that normally surround the northern pole in a counterclockwise direction. It's essentially a polar low-pressure system. 

These winds tend to keep the bitter cold air locked in the Arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere. It is not a single storm: The vortex is continually surrounding the Arctic region.

Here's why the vortex matters now: On occasion, this vortex can become distorted and dip much farther south than you would normally find it, allowing cold air to spill southward.

10:04 a.m. ET, January 29, 2019

8 tips for keeping your family warm — and safe — during this cold wave

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

As millions of Americans brace for sub-zero temperatures this week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is offering tips for looking after yourself and others:

  • Make sure any infants younger than 1 year old are not sleeping in cold rooms and have adequate warm clothing, such as footed pajamas, one-piece wearable blankets or sleep sacks.
  • Check on neighbors and friends older than 65 to ensure that their homes are adequately heated.
  • Be careful while using space heaters or fireplaces, and avoid using candles during a power outage. Never use an electric generator or gas or charcoal grills indoors.
  • Leave water taps slightly open to prevent freezing pipes.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine because they can cause your body to lose heat more rapidly.
  • Dress warmly with hats, scarves and mittens and by wearing layers.
  • Avoid walking on ice and getting wet. If you have to shovel snow or do other outdoor work, take your time and work slowly.
  • Try to keep pets indoors during cold weather, but if they go outside, thoroughly wipe their legs and underbelly free of snow when returning indoors. And never let your dog off leash on snow or ice.

Read more winter weather tips here.

9:45 a.m. ET, January 29, 2019

So far, more than 1,000 flights have been canceled today

So far today, 1,031 flights into, out of or within the US have been canceled, according to FlightAware.

Another 479 have been delayed.

Here's a look at where the delays are clustered this morning: