BLOOMINGTON — The word on the street is that it's going to get worse before it gets better.
An arctic blast of bitterly cold temperatures is here to stay through Thursday morning, according to forecasters with the National Weather Service in Lincoln. A wind chill advisory for all of Central Illinois will remain in effect until noon that day, making the already-dropping temperatures feel even colder.
The temperature was 1 degree below zero at 7:30 a.m. with a wind chill factor of minus 17, said the NWS.
As a result, school officials began reporting school closings Tuesday evening. Bloomington District 87, Normal-based McLean County Unit 5 and Stanford-based Olympia were among many area districts reporting that classes are canceled for Wednesday. For a complete list, see the cancellations list at www.pantagraph.com.
"When you get 5 inches of snow and all everyone wants to talk about is the cold weather coming, then you know it's real," said bundled-up Normal resident Glen Rego as he shoveled his sidewalk Tuesday morning.
Because of Monday's snowfall, the temperatures will be about five to 10 degrees below what it would have been with a bare ground, said Chuck Shaffer, a weather service meteorologist.
Varying amounts of snow fell Monday afternoon and evening in Central Illinois, ranging from 1.5 inches in Mount Pulaski to 5.5 inches about four miles northeast of Normal, according to the weather service.
But now, the problem becomes strong winds and low temperatures.
The thermometer on Wednesday is expected to remain below zero throughout the day, said Shaffer. The high temperature may only be zero or colder.
"By Wednesday morning, the winds will have cranked up and the wind chill will be about 20 to 30 degrees below zero," he said. "It's going to be bitterly cold throughout the whole day."
Frostbite can occur in as little as 15 to 30 minutes on exposed skin. This can lead to hypothermia and death if precautions are not taken.
Wednesday night's low will drop to around 12 degrees below zero. On Thursday, temperatures are expected to climb out of the negative to 16 degrees, said the weather service.
If freezing during the first week of January seems familiar, it may be because Illinois was hit with an arctic blast exactly one year ago.
High temperatures on Jan. 6, 2014, were below zero across Central Illinois. The high temperature was only 10 degrees below zero in Normal, which broke the Jan. 18, 1994, record of 9 degrees below zero for the lowest high temperature in the town.
Last year in Bloomington, the overnight lows dropped to 5 degrees below zero on Jan. 5, 17 below on Jan. 6 and 12 below on Jan. 7. Wind chill values of 44 degrees below zero were recorded Jan. 6 at the Central Illinois Regional Airport.
So when is it going to reach freezing again?
"That's a good question," Shaffer said. "We extend our forecasts out seven days and so we have up until next Tuesday. I don't see anything higher than the mid-20s all the way through. But, at least we don't have any more big snow systems on the way."