'Life-Threatening' Cold Hits US Midwest; Moving South, East

Officials in the U.S. Midwest warned of "life-threatening" temperatures on Sunday after an Arctic chill slammed the region with the coldest weather in two decades. Some places are expected to be so cold that exposed skin would get frostbitten within minutes, officials said.

Midwestern states received up to a foot of new snow Sunday, with the Chicago area covered with about 9 inches of snow, St. Louis area having about a foot of snow and northern Indiana with at least 8 inches of snow, The Associated Press reported.

Central Illinois braced for 8 to 10 inches, and southern Michigan could see up to 15 inches, according to forecast.

In Chicago, temperatures were expected to go down to around minus 15 overnight, likely setting a daily record, National Weather Service meteorologist Ed Fenelon was quoted as saying. Temperatures sank to minus 20 and colder in northern Minnesota and Grand Forks, N.D.

Several Illinois roadways remained closed due to drifting snow even as officials advised that residents stay inside their homes. Roads in the Midwest were dangerous, and officials in Missouri said it was too cold for rock salt to be very effective, the newswire reported.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has asked all public schools in the state to remain closed Monday. Schools will remain closed also in Nashville, Tenn., through Wednesday, according to Reuters.

While schools will be open in Chicago Monday, officials have advised parents to "use their own discretion in deciding whether to send their child to school."

The National Weather Service said bitterly cold temperatures and dangerous wind chills will continue to move south and east through the early part of the week.

"Cold temperatures and gusty winds associated with an arctic airmass will continue dangerously cold wind chills as far south as Brownsville, Texas, and central Florida," NWS said. "This arctic airmass will affect the eastern two-thirds of the country on Monday as a sharp cold front moves toward the East Coast. The cold temperatures will remain in place through mid-week before a warming trend begins."

The bitter cold will likely spread south and east and reach its peak Monday and Tuesday from the Plains to the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys, according to Weather Channel. Morning lows Monday will be in the 20s and 30s below zero over much of eastern Montana, North Dakota, northeast South Dakota, Minnesota, northwest Illinois and Wisconsin, it said.

"Relentless northwest winds of 15 to 35 mph (depending on location) will make this an exceptionally dangerous cold, sending wind chills into the minus 50s and even minus 60s across much of this region," weather.com said, warning, "At these levels, any exposed skin can suffer frostbite in as little as 5 minutes!"

There is some relief in store though. The bitter cold air will quickly sweep out by mid to late this week.