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Chicago forecast: Record-breaking cold, brutal subzero windchill arrives

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Early Thursday will bring the lowest subzero temperatures

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Wednesday’s weather has brought one of the coldest days on record which has slowed down transit and services.

To break the all-time record low, temperatures would have to dip below minus 27. At 6 a.m. it was 22 degrees below zero, so we’re not too far off. If Wednesday isn’t the coldest day ever, the record could be broken early Thursday when temperatures will drop between minus 20 and minus 30.

At 4 a.m. the daily low temperature record was broken when Chicago dropped to minus 19 degrees, according to the weather service. Windchill overnight was about minus 50, which is about as low as it gets. Previously, the lowest temperature on January 30 was minus 15 in 1966.

Early Wednesday morning the temperature was forecasted between minus 28 to minus 19, then rising later in the afternoon between minus 11 and minus 17. The windchill will stay around 50 below zero.

One of the last coldest days in recent memory was January 6, 2014 when it was minus 16 degrees, NWS Chicago said. The city’s all-time lowest temperature was minus 27 on January 20, 1985. If you think that’s bad, the record for coldest windchill is far worse: 82 below zero on Christmas Eve 1983.

Snow has fallen everyday for the past 13 days in Chicago—that’s only happened five other times, according to the weather service. Between January 17th to the 29th, the city has seen about 14.7 inches. The last time we had 13 days of consecutive snowfall was the winter of 1978 to 1979 where 23.5 inches fell. It’s likely that snow will continue to fall on Wednesday and Thursday prolonging this year’s snowstretch, but to break a record, it’d have to go longer than 1960’s 18 days.

The extreme cold front is part of the a larger polar vortex affecting the country, such as New York. But by the weekend, temperatures in Chicago will be on the rise with a near 100 degree difference. While there might be a minus 50 windchill now, by Sunday a heatwave will bring a high of 43 degrees above zero.

Officials say stay indoors as frostbite can occur within five minutes on exposed skin. The weather service has issued a windchill warning until Thursday at noon meaning that visibility on roads will be significantly reduced and travel will be hazardous.

The dangerous weather prompted the governor to issue a statewide disaster declaration on Tuesday. The coldest Arctic air is gripping the Midwest, and the city is opening warming centers to ensure all residents have a safe place to go in the deadly weather.

The city is doing everything it can to ensure residents are safe and warm, but there are ways you can help like donating single ride CTA cards for folks looking for a warm place. Libraries, park fieldhouses, police stations and shelters are all staying open and some are extending hours for those in need.