'Life-Threatening' Arctic Blast To Freeze Nearly 200 Million As Polar Vortex Slams Midwest

A massive blast of Arctic air will hit the Midwest and Northeast by the middle of this week, bringing temperatures to their lowest levels in years.

Using words such as "life-threatening," "dangerous," "brutal," and "unprecedented," the National Weather Service is preparing us for the extreme cold that's forecast to roar into the U.S. next week. -USA Today

"The coldest air of the season will plunge the upper Midwest and Great Lakes into life-threatening conditions," noted the National Weather Service.

According to the National Weather Service, the hardest hit zone will stretch from Minnesota and Iowa through Michigan - including Chicago, Detroit, Des Moines, Green Bay, Milwaukee and Madison.

The Chicago Weather Service office has predicted temperatures below zero for 60 consecutive hours - from Tuesday afternoon through Thursday. "Only eight times since 1872 has Chicago recorded subzero highs on at least two consecutive days, the most recent being early February 1996," it announced. 

Milwaukee and Madison also face bone-chilling cold. In its forecast discussion for the region, the Weather Service wrote that the danger of the predicted temperatures “can’t be overstated,” noting they will be 30 to 40 degrees below normal. “For January, that’s incredible,” it said. -WaPo

All of Wisconsin and Minnesota, along with much of northern Illinois is expected to remain below zero on Wednesday. 

"There’s no mild way of saying it. Brutal cold is coming," said the National Weather Service, adding "It's forecast as the prolonged coldest in at least 5 years, but potentially much longer."

"Temperatures can be held 20 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit below normal across most of the Midwest around midweek," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson. 

That can equate to one to three days of subzero highs from Fargo, North Dakota, to Minneapolis and Chicago. Highs may reach only the single digits from St. Louis to Indianapolis and Pittsburgh.

Records for the cold can be challenged both during the day and at night.

“Latest indications are that Chicago could set a record on Wednesday for the day’s lowest high temperature,” according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Tom Kines. Temperatures have not been held below zero for an entire day in Chicago since Jan. 6, 2014. -Accuweather 

The Northeast will receive a heavy dose of snow and freezing winds, along with heavy rain according to Hudson Valley Weather

We’ve got a VERY complex setup, with a monster dip in the jet stream, that will try to dig in, causing a coastal storm to develop.  The position, timing and strength are quite uncertain, and very key to our forecast.  In short… snow could cause headaches Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday morning. -Hudson Valley Weather

Residents in the affected regions are advised to remain indoors, protect livestock, and prepare for things like frozen pipes and dead car batteries. Motorists should have a winter survival kit in case of a breakdown.