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Arctic temps, winds return

BY KATHLEEN FOX kfox@paducahsun.com

As another week begins, local residents should prepare to bundle up against brutal cold and biting wind as another arctic system moved into the area.

Temperatures plummeted more than 40 degrees from the low 60s Sunday afternoon to around 15 degrees overnight. The mass of cold air that moved into the local area after midnight brought 20 to 25 mph wind gusts and wind chill temperatures below zero about daybreak, according to meteorologist Kevin Smith of the National Weather Service in Paducah.

"The difference with this system is we will experience the low temperatures on bare ground without snow cover," Smith said. "The colder the air, the more dense it is and the more energy it takes to dislodge."

The rapid temperature decrease mirrors the polar vortex that entered the area earlier this month and brought wind chills about -20 degrees and frigidly freezing air along with high winds. Cold air masses that would typically go farther west toward Kansas and Oklahoma stopped over the Mississippi and Ohio valleys, Smith said.

Through the next few days, cities throughout the Midwest will feel colder with the wind chill than temperatures expected at the nation's northernmost city, Barrow, Alaska. Winds chills across the region will be below zero with 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 Chicago, if temperatures remain below zero through Tuesday, in total about 60 hours, it will register the longest stretch below zero since 1983 and the third-longest stretch in 80 years.

Area temperatures will remain below freezing through Tuesday with overnight lows hovering several degrees above zero and highs in the late teens. Smith advised local residents to be smart and limit skin exposure to cold weather, especially for younger children and those working outside, who should bundle up to avoid potential frostbite.

"With temperatures this cold and winds this strong, the cold is dangerous enough on its own," he said.

He said sunlight will be unable to warm the large cold air mass until Wednesday when temperatures will gradually increase throughout the day, inching toward 30 degrees. Light rain and snow could move into the area by the end of the week and into the weekend with high temperatures in the high 30s and low 40s.

Local meteorologists said despite the unseasonable cold weather that could register as one of the chilliest seasons in history, residents should stay optimistic as spring approaches.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Contact Kathleen Fox, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651 or follow @kathleendfox on Twitter.

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