Intense cold easing after hours of temps under 20 and sub-zero wind chills


Chicago’s coldest blast of air in 2 years is easing—but slowly. By midnight Tuesday, the area moved into a 55th consecutive hour of sub-20-degree thermometer readings and 46 hours with wind chills below zero.


Tuesday’s 11-degree high and 1-below morning low put the day into the record books as the city’s coldest of the past two years.


The meteorological transition ahead of us is to take Chicago from an “intense” brand of cold to a more “moderate” one the remainder of the week. The trade-off is Chicago is to become more vulnerable to several snow-producing systems.


While none are “huge” snow-producers, in a winter which has boasted a single 0.4″ snow as its “heaviest”, a system like Thursday night and Friday’s—which, if current forecast trends hold,  could lay down anything from a dusting to an inch or two— is likely to seem far more wintry than most we’ve experienced.


Satellite imagery tracks ice build-up on western Lake Michigan in Tuesday’s bitter cold


So cold was the air Tuesday, ice crystals could be seen emanating from Lake Michigan’s surface, particularly in the morning—a process many erroneously identify as “steam”, when in fact, tiny crystals of ice are involved.


Call it what you may, it’s a situation which signals bitterly cold air is making contact with comparatively “warm” lake water.


The chill also led to a rapid build-up of ice on a lake with surface water temps which had been flirting in recent weeks with freezing, but succumbed to Tuesday’s frigid northwest winds to actually reach freezing.  Satellite imagery visualized the dramatic ice development which resulted.


Chicago’s first sub-zero temps in nearly 2 years ends longest 0-free stretch here in 59 years


Tuesday morning’s sub-zero temps, the first in 2 years, brought an end Chicago’s longest official string of days between 0-degree or lower temps here in 59 years—711 of them!


Lake-effect snows produce some near 1 foot accumulations across western Michigan snowbelt


The cold arrived beneath sunny skies here on the west side of Lake Michigan Tuesday. But the snowfall its interaction with warm lake waters has produced in recent days has led to snowfalls of as much as 6 to 14 inches in harder-hit locations in the western Michigan lake snow belt.


Suttons Bay, MI had tallied 14 inches of snow by late Tuesday while areas not far from Holland, Michigan reported local 11 accumulations.


Series of disturbances each carry a snow risk in coming days


Flurries or some light snow arrive Wednesday into Wednesday night with the first of three disturbances we’ll be tracking across the Chicago in the coming week.


More significant may be a system which could produce spells of snowfall later Thursday and into Friday.  While hardly a huge snow-producer, it has the makings of a disturbance which could end up laying down more snow than the 0.4″ which, up to now, has been this cold season’s top snow maker.


A wintry cocktail of precip, possibly beginning as snow and ending up with as some early week rain, could next reach the Chicago area later this weekend.