MILWAUKEE (AP) — Heavy snow and powerful wind created blizzard-like conditions Monday across parts of the Midwest, prompting officials to cancel about 1,000 flights at Chicago's airports and close hundreds of schools. But forecasters warned the most dangerous weather is yet to come: frigidly low temperatures that the region hasn't seen in a quarter century.
Snowplow drivers had trouble keeping up with the snow in Minnesota and Wisconsin, where some areas got as much as 15 inches. Chicago-area commuters woke up to heavy snowfall, with more than 5 inches already on the ground. In Michigan, non-essential government offices were closed, including the Capitol.
But the snow is only "part one, and maybe even the easier part" because temperatures will plummet over the next three days, said Brian Hurley, a meteorologist with the Weather Prediction Center.
Wednesday is expected to be the worst. Wind chills in northern Illinois could fall to negative 55 degrees, which the National Weather Service called "possibly life threatening." Minnesota temperatures could hit minus 30 degrees with a wind chill of negative 60 degrees.
"You're talking about frostbite and hypothermia issues very quickly, like in a matter of minutes, maybe seconds," Hurley said.
The potentially record-breaking low temperature forecast in Milwaukee is negative 28 degrees, with a wind chill as low as negative 50 degrees. The current record of minus 26 degrees was set in 1996.
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Traffic moves along I-41 during a snowstorm on Monday in Green Bay, Wis.
Chicago's El trains move along snow-covered tracks Monday in Chicago. The plunging temperatures expected later this week that have forecasters especially concerned. Wind chills could dip to negative 55 degrees in northern Illinois, which the National Weather Service calls "possibly life threatening."
City workers put up a road closed sign Monday on the Michigan Street hill in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Snow falls on the campus of Western Michigan University on Monday in Kalamazoo, Mich.
A pedestrian crosses West Wisconsin Avenue at North 12th Street on the Marquette University campus in Milwaukee on Monday. Marquette University canceled classes due to the winter storm.
Tow truck personnel work to remove an overturned semi in the median of Interstate 90 at mile marker 218 near the U.S. Highway 52 exit on Monday in Rochester, Minn. According to Sgt. Troy Christianson, with the Minnesota State Patrol, the semi was eastbound and went straight off the gradual curve into the median because of blowing snow. Sgt. Christianson said there were no injuries in the crash.
A person is bundled up Monday in Chicago.
A snow-covered Jeremy Buckta snowblows his driveway in whiteout conditions during a snowstorm Monday in Manitowoc, Wis.
Jan White clears snow from his driveway Monday following a winter snowstorm that made its way through Janesville, Wis., overnight. Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers declared a state of emergency shortly after noon Monday, citing the snow and severe cold that is forecast for the days ahead.
Curtis Russell smokes a cigarette as he walks his dog, Sophie, on Monday in Richfield, Wis. Russell said he will be getting a bathroom pad for Sophie to use indoors for the next few days as temperatures are expected to drop below zero.
Snow falls on Woodward Ave. in downtown Detroit as a winter storm hits Michigan on Monday.
Scott Ward clears the snow from his car parked in front of his home in Davenport, Iowa on Monday.