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Deep cold returns to Chicago after long hiatus

KarissWoienski gives an ice skating lessher student Bayaan Al-Hallaq 4 Midway Plaisance Ice Rink Chicago Ill. Sunday January 20 2013.

Karissa Woienski gives an ice skating lesson to her student Bayaan Al-Hallaq, 4, at Midway Plaisance Ice Rink in Chicago, Ill., on Sunday, January 20, 2013. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 22, 2013 6:25AM



The next couple of days could make you sorry you put off getting that new battery for the car.

But even if you find yourself needing the jumper cables Monday or Tuesday, remember that the Chicago area still leads a charmed life this winter. Temperatures easily could be much colder.

The most frigid air mass the region has seen in two years is descending over the area. The National Weather Service said temperatures will be mostly in the single digits until Wednesday, with the low Monday night flirting with subzero levels.

Richard Castro, meteorologist at the weather service’s office in Romeoville, said we’d be looking at a low of around minus 20 if the region had snow on the ground.

“This is actually quite an impressive mass of cold air,” he said. Within the system, temperatures aloft are actually colder than those in the last subzero front that visited Chicago in February 2011.

Castro said the earlier system produced a minus 9 reading at O’Hare Airport on Feb. 10, 2011, the last below-zero reading for the region. It occurred just after that winter’s “Snowmageddon” and about 20 inches were on the ground.

Lack of snow acts as insulation. Castro said that if the incoming weather produces below-zero temperatures, it will mark a rarity for Chicago.

A weather service study of the period from 1960 to 2010 found only 16 days with no snow cover and temperatures in the negative range, Castro said.

Wind chills will be a big concern, with Monday night probably marking the worst of it.

Castro said wind chills could reach 20 below in the city Monday night and 25 below in areas further from Lake Michigan.

The weather service expects temperatures to slowly moderate later in the week, with a chance of snow Thursday. Depending on the track of that storm, it could break Chicago’s ongoing record for most days without at least an inch of snow, Castro said.

As of Sunday, the Chicago area has recorded 331 days without a snowfall of at least an inch and 329 days without a snow depth of at least an inch, he said. Both streaks broke records set in 1940, Castro added.



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