Dangerously cold air is moving into the Northern Plains and upper Midwest this weekend

What was a mild start to 2023 will come to an abrupt halt this weekend as winter makes a roaring comeback across the Northern Plains and upper Midwest.

Minneapolis residents have so far had a mild January — at least by their standards — with temperatures not falling below zero that month and averaging about 7 degrees above normal.

“Dangerously cold temperatures and wind chills are forecast across the northern plains and upper Midwest through early next week,” the Climate Prediction Center said. “Expect well below normal temperatures in the central/northern Plains through the interior parts of the Pacific Northwest for the weekend through early next week.”

High temperatures will be in the single digits or even below zero — between 25 and 40 degrees below normal — across much of the northern plains of the United States. The overnight lows will be downright cold, resulting in wind chill advisories being issued for parts of Minnesota, North Dakota, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas and Montana.

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“This would be the coldest weather since Christmas for this region, with locations from eastern Montana to northern Minnesota likely to remain below zero Saturday through Monday and perhaps into Tuesday,” the forecast center said.

These temperatures may come as a shock to many as most of January was so mild. Chicago and Kansas City are both up more than 9 degrees above normal for the month, and Minneapolis and Oklahoma City are running at least 6 degrees above normal in January.

The dramatic change from mild temperatures to bitter cold can catch people unprepared.

Bozeman, Montana, for example, will rise from a high of 33 degrees on Friday to a high of -3 degrees on Sunday — with more than 40 straight hours below zero. In Minneapolis, a high of 33 degrees on Friday will drop to a high of 3 degrees on Monday. St. Louis remains milder on Saturday with a high of 56. On Sunday, however, the high temperature drops to 36 degrees and finally reaches a low of 16 degrees on Monday evening.

Western cities will also experience dramatic slumps. Denver will rise from a high of 30 degrees on Saturday to a high of 7 degrees on Monday.

Add some wind, snow and ice

Air temperatures are not the only concern this weekend. Winds blow at speeds of 20 to 30 miles per hour across much of the High Plains and Midwest. While that may not seem very high, it doesn’t take much for frostbite to set in when the air temperature is already that cold.

“Wind chills could drop below 40 degrees in these areas at times. Highs in the 0 to 10 degree range may extend into northeastern Colorado and northern Kansas,” the forecast center said.

In this area, exposed skin can suffer frostbite in as little as 10 to 15 minutes.

Another problem with this wind is its effect on blizzards. Blowing snow and limited visibility sometimes make travel difficult.

“The upper wave train has another snow gun for us this weekend,” said the Milwaukee, Wisconsin office of the National Weather Service. “For much of southern Wisconsin there will be a good period of light to moderate snow from Saturday noon through Saturday night.”

Wintry conditions began affecting travel in parts of the Midwest on Friday. A portion of Interstate 39/90 between the Wisconsin cities of Beloit and Janesville was closed due to an 85-car pile-up Friday afternoon, according to the WIsconsin State Patrol.

At least 21 people were taken to area hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

Snow is expected to spread from the Cascades to the Rockies and the Great Lakes region Saturday through Sunday. There are winter weather warnings and winter storm warnings for over 18 million people.

Generally, southern Wisconsin, northern Illinois and much of Iowa will see 2 to 4 inches of snow, although these rapid but intense bursts of snow make it difficult to pinpoint exactly who will see the highest snowfall amounts.

“An additional narrow 4- to 6-inch swath of snow with locally higher totals is forecast from northern Iowa to lower Michigan through early Sunday,” the forecast center said.

While further south, along the Iowa-Missouri border, snow will be prevalent, the bureau warns that it will be possible to see “a short period of freezing drizzle and very light glazing,” according to the Des Moines office of the National Weather Service Ice cream Saturday afternoon.”

It will also snow on the Intermountain West this weekend. Most areas of Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Colorado and northern Utah will experience light to moderate snowfall through Monday. However, the heaviest snow falls in the higher elevations of Wyoming and Colorado, where several feet of snow are possible.

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CNN’s Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.