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Minus-56 degrees and more: Brutal cold-air outbreak is smashing records in the Midwest

Temperatures dove more than 30 degrees below zero Thursday morning in the Midwest in this polar vortex outbreak’s last gasp, driving wind chills to dangerous levels and clobbering long-standing records. More than 680 temperature records were broken or tied this week, according to the Midwest Regional Climate Center.

Conditions in northern Minnesota took a nosedive in the early morning hours. The unincorporated community of Cotton measured an actual temperature — not wind chill — of minus-56 degrees. It was four degrees short of Minnesota’s all-time lowest temperature.

At the National Weather Service in Duluth, forecasters thought the region could make a serious run at the state record before the sun came up, when temperatures would be at their coldest, meteorologist Geoff Grochocinski told The Post. The current record of minus-60 was set near the city of Tower in 1996. The conditions would have had to line up perfectly for it to have happened, the Weather Service said.

The cold snap is smashing all-time records in Northern Illinois. The state could have a new low temperature record as of Thursday morning, after Mount Carroll plummeted to minus-38 Thursday morning. The temperature was measured by a trained weather observer, according to the National Weather Service. The data will be examined by the Weather Service and the state climatologist to be certified as Illinois' lowest temperature. It would supplant the current record of minus-36 degrees set in Congerville on Jan. 5, 1999.

Moline, Ill., hit a new low late Wednesday night — the lowest temperature the city has ever recorded. The weather station at the Moline Quad-City Airport sent a reading of minus-29 degrees at 11:19 p.m., which was enough to break the record, and then continued to drop even further through the early-morning hours Thursday. As of 7 a.m., the lowest temperature Moline had reached was minus-33 degrees, a full five lower than the old record of minus-28, which was set in 1996.

Rockford, Ill., hit minus-30 degrees at 6:45 a.m. Central Time, which broke the old record of minus-27 set on Jan. 20, 1982.

Polar vortex death toll rises as Arctic blast keeps the Midwest in a deep freeze

Norris Camp, in northwestern Minnesota, was the coldest location in the United States on Wednesday after temperatures there dropped to minus-48 degrees, measured by an official with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. With winds blowing at 5 to 10 mph, wind chill would have been around minus-65 degrees. Several other locations in Minnesota and North Dakota plunged to dangerous lows, including Warren, Minn. (minus-47); Lisbon, N.D. (minus-46); and Park Rapids, Minn. (minus-42).

Wednesday was the second-coldest day in Chicago’s history. The maximum temperature, minus-10, was set just after midnight, and then the mercury dropped to minus-24 later in the morning. The combination of those extremes results in a daily average of minus-17, just short of Dec. 24, 1983, when the average temperature was minus-18 in the Windy City.

Tom Skilling, a longtime meteorologist at Chicago’s WGN-TV, says describing the weather as brutal is an understatement.

Lake Michigan is a frozen wonderland and the photos are perfection

“Lake Michigan took on the appearance of a boiling cauldron as air of minus-20 degrees and colder made contact with water sitting just above the freezing level,” said Skilling in his report. “I’ve lived here 40 years and never until today have never seen a more spectacular display of ‘sea smoke.’”

The Arctic air will loosen its grip on the Midwest by Thursday afternoon; temperatures might even approach zero degrees in Chicago and Milwaukee. By the weekend, daytime temperatures will be above freezing across most of the Midwest.