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State Climatologist: Current Cold Snap Is Unusually Lengthy

Illinois Department of Transportation

For the past several days, temperatures in central Illinois have rarely reached double digits, and snow is piling up. This weather brings hazardous road conditions, and even poor air quality.

Illinois State Climatologist Trent Ford says the weather patterns seen for the past week is a result of changing patterns within what is known as the "Polar Vortex."

While bitterly cold temperatures aren't out of the ordinary this time of year, the staying power of this current stretch of cold weather is abnormal, he said.

"I would say what's most unusual about what we've been experiencing is the persistence of the pattern," he said. "So we get these colder outbreaks where we temperatures in the teens or single digits, but they don't last very long. Maybe a day or two."

Ford said this extreme cold can cause frostbite within minutes. The weather also creates dangerous air quality that can harm the lungs.

"Not only the temperature, but the density of the air, can make trouble for those who already have respiratory issues, pulmonary issues like asthma, for example" Ford said. "And if you're out in public and wearing a mask, you can actually exacerbate those issues."

Ford said the current weather should be taken seriously. People should take precautions when outside for extended periods of time.

But Ford said there is light at the end of the tunnel. We should expect warmer temperatures in the coming weeks. 

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Olivia Streeter is an intern at WCBU. The Illinois State University student joined WCBU in 2020.