WILMINGTON — Clinton County is joining much of the nation in Mother Nature’s dangerous deep freeze beginning Tuesday.
The AccuWeather forecast calls for local temperatures to dip to several degrees below zero on Tuesday, and on Wednesday the temperature may not make it above zero at all.
Thursday’s forecast is just a bit better, with a high around 11 degrees and a low around 6 until temps become more moderate toward the end of the work week.
However, the wind during the next three days will make it even colder and more dangerous.
A Wind Chill Watch was issued for Clinton County by the National Weather Service in Wilmington beginning Monday at 10 p.m. through Tuesday at 7 p.m. with “dangerously cold wind chills possible, as low at 30 below zero.”
The NWS also warns that the cold wind chills can cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 30 minutes.
The arctic blasts began spreading painful cold across the Midwest on Friday, closing schools, opening warming centers and even intimidating ice fishermen in a taste of the even more dangerous weather expected next week.
Forecasters called it a replay of the “polar vortex” that bludgeoned the U.S. in 2014 — and maybe even colder, with wind chills by midweek as much as 45 below in Chicago.
Why so cold?
When the polar vortex plunges into the U.S., it will be warmer in parts of the Arctic — Greenland, northern Canada and Alaska — than in Chicago and Minneapolis, meteorologists said.
In northern Michigan, residents of islands in the river connecting Lake Superior and Lake Huron were warned to stock up on supplies in case ferry service was cut off. In Chicago, warming centers opened.
Kenny Blackwell and his son, Corey, moved from Virginia to North Dakota to help build low-income housing projects. Outside their current project on Friday, they chuckled at a cellphone showing the temperature at minus-10 and said it felt more like Alaska.
“The money here is great but the weather here is so nasty it made my dad’s hair freeze,” Corey Blackwell said. “We had to go out and buy some North Dakota clothes!”
The cold snap is due to the polar vortex, the gigantic circular upper air weather pattern in the Arctic region enveloping the North Pole, splitting into three pieces in late December because of an occasional weather condition called “sudden stratospheric warming, according to Jeff Masters, meteorology director at the private Weather Underground.
One chunk of that trapped cold air went to Siberia, another to Scandinavia, and the third piece is heading through Canada. On Wednesday, it will be over northern Michigan somewhere, he said.
It’s a system some forecasters have dubbed “Barney” because computer forecast models show the cold air as chubby purple blobs, said Ryan Maue, a meteorologist with the private forecasting company weather.us.
The polar vortex rarely plunges as far south as the U.S., maybe every few years or more, Maue said. The last big plunge was Jan. 6, 2014, when Chicago’s temperature dipped to minus-16.
“We’re going to persevere no matter what with most of these events,” Johnson said. “We know they’ll be smart about it. The people will bundle up and not stay outside too long.”