Brutal cold returns to Midwest for an extended stay

CHICAGO - An unusual weather pattern driving bitterly cold air from the Arctic Circle south across a huge swath of the Midwest is expected to send temperatures plummeting Monday from Minneapolis to Louisville, Ky., the latest punch from a winter that is in some areas shaping up as one of the coldest on record.

Temperatures will remain in the grips of the deep freeze for 2 1/2 days, said meteorologist Mike Hudson of the National Weather Service in Kansas City, Mo. It will be similar to what happened earlier this month when temperatures dropped quickly and stayed low for days when a piece of the polar vortex - winds that circulate around the North Pole - "broke off and moved south," Hudson said.

In cities where temperatures reached the 40s, 50s and even higher Sunday, people will wake up Monday to temperatures ranging from the teens to well below zero. And with the wind chill, cities throughout the Midwest will feel far colder than the minus 4 that Hudson said was expected in Barrow, Alaska, the nation's northernmost city.

The weather service said city after city will face wind chills well below zero Monday: minus 43 in Minneapolis, minus 23 in both Milwaukee and Chicago, minus 14 in Kansas City, minus 10 in St. Louis, and minus 3 in Louisville.

In the Chicago area, residents were bracing for a historic deep freeze. Monday's high was expected to be minus 4 degrees and drop as low as 17 below zero downtown, with wind chills as low as 40 below zero.

Temperatures could remain below zero Tuesday as well and remain below zero for a total of 60 hours - the longest stretch since temperatures stayed below zero for a record 98 hours in 1983 and the third longest stretch in 80 years. It also would easily eclipse the 36 straight hours temperatures stayed below zero earlier this month, when the frigid weather prompted the city's public schools to close for two days.

By noon Sunday, Chicago's school district, which has approximately 400,000 students attending more than 650 schools, said it would be closed Monday. Districts in the Chicago suburbs also announced they'd be closed Monday.

In Michigan, snow on the roads and deep subfreezing temperatures contributed to multiple crashes Sunday that forced expressway closings. And on Saturday night, two people were killed in Grand Haven Township in western Michigan because of similar weather conditions, authorities said.

North Dakota and South Dakota residents dealt with dangerous cold Sunday and wind gusts that reached up to 60 mph. The high winds led to blowing snow that made it nearly impossible to travel in some areas of the two states.

"This is definitely the most widespread event we've had this year," said Adam Jones, a weather service meteorologist in Grand Forks, N.D.

Snow and high winds in Indiana led officials there to restrict vehicle traffic or recommend only essential travel in more than half of the state's counties.

In Iowa, snow was falling on Sunday and high winds were expected, prompting officials to warn that traveling would be dangerous. Forecasters there called for wind chills to be as low as 40 below zero on Monday.

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Associated Press writers Ken Kusmer in Indianapolis, David N. Goodman in Detroit, James MacPherson in Bismarck, N.D., and Josh Funk in Omaha, Neb., contributed to this report.

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