Bitter cold temperatures will heighten frostbite risk in northern US

Temperatures across the Midwest, Plains and Mountain West will range from 20 to 40 degrees below normal over the next five to seven days. Factor in wind gusts of 20 to 30 mph, and there will be life-threatening wind chills as low as 50 degrees below zero.

“Wind chills as low as -50 degrees could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes,” said the National Weather Service Office in Bismarck, North Dakota. “Frostbite and hypothermia are likely if proper precautions are not taken when outdoors.”

Over 25 million people are under wind chill advisories and warnings from Montana to Michigan.

When there is no wind, bodies radiates heat, creating a layer of protective warmth from the cold weather. However, when it is windy, that moving air breaks up that insulating layer of heat, which speeds up heat loss and allows hypothermia to set in more quickly.

The NWS Office in Bismarck said, “a prolonged period of life threatening wind chills is expected” this weekend and potentially lasting through much of next week.

Pile on the blankets

The coldest air will start pushing through the upper Midwest on Saturday. At least half a dozen states will see temperatures below zero on Saturday morning. Even high temperatures are expected to be 25 to 30 degrees below normal in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and the Dakotas.

From there, the cold air will spread south and east.

“Another reinforcing cold front will move through the region Sunday morning,” said the National Weather Service Office in Cleveland. “Temperatures will be the coldest so far this season this weekend into early next week with below-average temperatures lingering through next week.”

More than 43 million people across the contiguous US are forecast to see temperatures below zero over the next seven days.

From Sunday through Thursday, Cleveland, Indianapolis and Detroit will see high temperatures 15 to 20 degrees below normal, keeping them below freezing for almost a full week.

Starting this weekend, Chicago, Kansas City, Missouri, and Des Moines, Iowa, will witness temperatures 20 to 30 degrees below normal, keeping them mostly below the 20 degree mark.

It’s not just the Midwest that will be experience this deep freeze. Southern states like Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi will also be 15 to 30 degrees below normal Tuesday and Wednesday.

‘It cannot be too cold to snow’

“While it can be too warm to snow, it cannot be too cold to snow,” according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center website. “Snow can occur even at incredibly low temperatures as long as there is some source of moisture and some way to lift or cool the air. It is true, however, that most heavy snowfalls occur when there is relatively warm air near the ground — typically -9 degrees C (15 degrees F) or warmer — since warmer air can hold more water vapor.”

Despite the bitter cold, there is also a chance for snow showers for portions of Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska, where 2 to 4 inches is likely through Sunday.

A low pressure system that will develop off the coast of the Carolinas will slide up the East Coast Sunday. The system’s proximity to the New England coast will determine whether many northeastern cities get rain or snow.

“The system will intensify as it tracks off the Eastern Seaboard and has the potential to bring another round of significant snow across the mid-Atlantic and parts of the Northeast,” said Dave Hennen, a CNN meteorologist. “There is currently a lot of uncertainty in where/who will get the most snow and whether the major metro areas in the Northeast get hit.”

CNN’s Haley Brink contributed to this report.

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