By Andrea Romano
January 25, 2019
Brian Kersey/Getty Images

A winter storm is headed for the Midwest this weekend and it’s expected to be a big one.

According to Accuweather, areas along the I-80 and I-94 corridors are expecting snow and slippery conditions beginning on Sunday and continuing through early next week. Temperatures over the weekend will be in the teens, about 10 to 25 degrees Fahrenheit below normal for this time of year.

The National Weather Service said that lake effect snow will continue across the Central and Eastern U.S. this weekend. Accuweather notes that residents near Lake Michigan and Lake Superior in particular should be on the lookout for snow showers streaming off the lakes.

AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski said that, potentially, “more than 6 inches of snow” could fall near Fargo, North Dakota; Minneapolis, Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Chicago and Detroit. Strong winds with gusts past 50 mph are possible between eastern Montana to Nebraska and Kansas from Sunday through Monday, Accuweather reported.

Heavy snow will follow early next week in the North Plains and Mississippi Valley on Sunday, and the Great Lakes and Northeast early next week, according to the National Weather Service, which added that there will be dangerously cold temperatures beginning this weekend and into next week across all affected regions.

“The coldest air of the season will plunge the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes into life-threatening conditions,” said the National Weather Service.

These dangerous temperatures are not entirely unexpected but they could be indicative of a trend that is becoming alarmingly common during the winter: a “polar vortex.” According to Mashable, the polar vortex (a mass of extremely cold air that rotates at the top of the planet) has been “knocked off balance,” which can happen occasionally when it becomes “weak, wobbling out of its polar home.”

You might remember the term being frequently used in the news in January 2014, and again in 2016, when deeply frigid air hit several parts of the country, chilling some areas below zero.

And some meteorologists theorize that it’s back again.

The warmer winters, frankly, haven’t been helping. In fact, warm air can actually push around and disturb these polar winds, ultimately throwing them in our direction.

“[The polar vortex] starts to wobble and spill cold air out to the south," said Jeff Weber, a meteorologist with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, said to Mashable. “Once the vortex is disturbed, the areas of colder air can spill out. We expect lobes to spill out over time."

If anything, these cold blasts are an indication that the planet is rapidly warming, as these sudden warmer systems are frequently displacing the cold air that would normally stay put in the Arctic. As Mashable noted, the weakening of the polar vortex has become even more common over the last 20 years.

And while the Midwest, and eventually the Northeast, will bear the brunt of the Arctic blast this week, it could be possible that the colder air could spill into other states as well. Scientists predict that January will be the coldest month of them all.

“It's going to get really cold at the end of January and early February," said Weber.

As the temperatures become erratic and even more frigid, it’s best to keep an eye on the weather report and use caution if you go out on the roads.

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