The National Weather Service is expressing confidence that the storm in our area and ensuing cold air behind the front, will be the most dangerous system this season. Forecasters are predicting that Winnebago and Worth Counties residents will likely see anywhere from 3-5 inches of new snow. Hancock, Wright, and Kossuth Counties will see anywhere from 2-4 inches of new snow from the system. Cerro Gordo County will see 3-5 inches of new snow on the north side of the county and 2-4 inches of new snow on the southern section.
The system has prompted the National Weather Service to issue a Winter Storm Warning for the broadcast area until 12pm on Monday afternoon. It is believed that the storm, combined with strong winds from the southeast up to 25 miles per hour, will cause visibilities to drop to nearly a 1/2 mile. Resulting wind chills could dip to as low as -10. This would cause hazardous road and travel conditions for the area.
However, what follows is even worse. Behind the front is strong arctic air or a polar vortex. Usually during this time of year, there is a single and strong polar vortex hovering over the northern polar regions. That system has become weak and disorganized, breaking up into several smaller ones. When this happens, one or more of these vortices containing masses of arctic air push southward resulting in rapid and sharp temperature drops such as what the area will experience this week.
Record setting possibilities exist with this air mass traveling south out of Canada. By Tuesday, temperatures will begin to tumble to near -17 degrees. By Wednesday morning, the area could see wind chills between -40 to -50 degrees. This will produce frostbite in less than 10 minutes to exposed skin. As a result, the National Weather Service has issued a Wind Chill Watch from 6pm Monday evening to Thursday morning at 9am. Area highs will not go above zero during this time. Lows may reach -28 degrees on Tuesday night and -27 degrees on Wednesday night. This vortex will move out of the area and begin to plague the Great Lakes region and areas further east and south going into the weekend. By Friday, temperatures will return to the low to mid thirties for highs as warmer air returns back to the broadcast area.
Frostbite may not be the only concern during the time this vortex sits over the area. Hypothermia may set in for those who are exposed to the cold for medium durations. Vehicles, buses, and trucks may not start due to the cold. Walking or jogging outside during the cold is extremely dangerous because of the frostbite and hypothermia threat. Heating systems inside businesses and homes will be stressed.
County emergency managers encourage everyone to check on family, the elderly, and friends periodically during this time. Limit travel to a minimum or not at all in order to remain safe. If you must travel, take along an emergency kit of water, blankets, a shovel, food, and a fully charged cell phone with a car charger. Above all, if an emergency develops, remain in your vehicle at all times and call for help. Staying in your vehicle will greatly increase your chances of survival during this weather event.