By Heywood Hoffman
5:11 PM CST, January 19, 2013
A cold front moves over Chicago overnight that will send temperatures plunging, with below-zero possible early next week.
But no major precipitation is expected soon, meaning a lack-of-snow record will get longer.
As of early today, National Weather Service meteorologist Gino Izzi said the last time we had gone this far into the season without a 1-inch calendar day of snowfall was Jan. 17, 1899 -- so we set a record.
Additionally, it's been 327 days and counting since we've had a 1-inch snow cover on the ground. That record was officially broken in early January, according to Izzi.
The relatively mild temperatures we've seen in recent days will end as a blustery cold front moves in on strong winds overnight, with highs struggling to reach 18 on Sunday. The weather service says the front will pass through the area from northwest to southeast from 8 p.m. to midnight, with temperatures possibly dropping as much as 10 degrees in an hour as it passes.
With wind speeds from 15 to 55 mph, the resulting wind chill will combine with the low temperature for below-zero readings in some places after midnight, the agency said.
Monday will only reach a high of about 10 and could see a low about 1 below zero. There is a chance of snow flurries Monday, the weather service said, although it is not yet known if there's a chance to break the 1-inch level.
Tuesday will remain frigid, but temperatures are expected to begin moderating Wednesday into the 20s and we could reach just above freezing for a high on Thursday.
Authorities warn people to take extra care in the extreme cold, watch out for frostbite on any exposed skin areas while outside and to check on neighbors or family who might need help. In Chicago, heating help is available by calling 311.
The Illinois Tollway will launch its Zero Weather Road Patrols this weekend to assist drivers stranded in their cars during times of extreme cold.
The tollway anticipates activating Zero Patrols overnight Saturday and into the day Monday, until the temperature and/or wind chill rises above zero, according to a tollway release.
The 24-hour service dedicates hourly patrols in search of motorists stranded in disabled vehicles or in response to calls that come in to *999 motorist assistance, Illinois Tollway dispatch or Illinois State Police District 15.
For the latest radar, conditions and forecasts, go to The Chicago Weather Center.
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