Bitter cold slams Midwest, pushes wind chills below zero

( Adam Gray / Barcroft Media via Getty Images )

Much of the snow that was supposed to fall in the Midwest has come down and now it's time for the main event: Record-breaking cold.

The National Weather Service said Tuesday and Wednesday may see record cold from the southern Plains to the Mississippi Valley to the Great Lakes and beyond, thanks to what it calls an "arctic airmass" that started in Siberia and has been spilling over a big chunk of the Midwest and East Coast.  

There will still be plenty of snow into Tuesday in parts of the Northeast as the weather service reported the region may see up to a foot of snow, creating what it called "hazardous travel conditions." Meanwhile, temperatures were forecast below freezing as far south as the Texas Gulf Coast.

A recorded temperature of 7 degrees at O’Hare Tuesday morning broke a record low set in 1986, the National Weather Service said. Wind chills throughout the area greeted early risers at levels well below 0 degrees.

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"This is an air mass that's more typical for the middle of January than mid-November," said Birk. "It is pretty much about the coldest we can be this time of year (and) it could break records all over the region." 

In some areas, the mercury fell quickly. Temperatures in Denver climbed past 70 degrees (21 Celsius) over the weekend only to fall to 14 degrees (-10 Celsius) early Monday.

As the weather made driving difficult in much of the Midwest, authorities said Monday's snowfall were to blame for four deaths. 

The Eaton County Sheriff's Office in Michigan said two women, ages 81 and 64, and a 57-year-old man were killed in a two-vehicle crash caused by poor road conditions. And in Kansas, the Highway Patrol said an 8-year-old girl died in a three-vehicle wreck.

Officials in central Wyoming were searching for a 16-year-old autistic boy who went missing Sunday wearing only his pajamas. 

In Chicago, a plane landing at O'Hare International Airport on Monday slid across the runway. No one was injured. More than 1,000 flights at O'Hare and Midway International Airport were canceled after more than 3 inches of snow fell.

The National Weather Service reported, in all, that snowfall totals could reach up to a foot or more in some parts of Indiana, Michigan and Vermont. Areas west of the Rocky Mountains would be spared the arctic air, with above average temperatures expected in some of those places, according to the weather service.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.