Skilling: Late-season record cold is rare, historic

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CHICAGO -- The Chicago area is locked in the grip of a rare-late-season record breaking cold snap.

Despite the strengthening February sunlight, 80 percent stronger than the sunlight received on the winter solstice and lengthening daylight to the tune of 1 hour and 37 more minutes of daylight than on December 21, the intense cold persists.  Wednesday’s official high at O’Hare was just 8 above and marked the city’s first single digit high this late in the season in 9 years to the date, since a high of 8 was also logged on February 18, 2006.

Two long-standing 79 year-old records are expected to fall Thursday February 19.  The record low for the date currently stands at 7 below zero set in 1936. Current forecasts peg Thursday morning’s low at O’Hare to drop at least to 8 below breaking the record. Readings in outlying areas could drop as low as 10 to 15 below zero and coupled with gusty northwest winds, wind chills Thursday morning could drop as low as minus 30.  A wind chill advisory remain in effect for the entire Chicago Metro area through noon Thursday.

The high temperature on Thursday afternoon is expected to get no higher than 4 above establishing yet another record. The record lowest maximum for February 19 is 9 above and that record should easily fall.

To show how rare late-season cold of this intensity is, the city has only logged back-to-back single-digit highs so late in the season twice before…

  • In 1889 with a high of 2 below zero on February 23 and a high of 8 above zero on February 24.
  • In 1936 with a high of 0 on February 18 and a high of 9 on February 19.

Temperatures will begin to moderate by Friday into the weekend as the cold eases but the warm-up will come at a price as the city faces two snow threats, some light snow Friday night into Saturday and perhaps a more substantial snow Saturday night into Sunday.

Updates at Chicago Weather Center





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