TODAY   |  January 06, 2014

Record low temperatures put Midwest in deep freeze

Schools have been closed and residents have been warned to stay inside after reports of historically low temperatures in the Midwest. NBC’s Dylan Dreyer reports from Green Bay, Wis.

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>> this extreme cold is today's top story. records could be set in some two dozen major cities from texas to the midwest. let's get to dylan, she's braving the elements in green bay , wisconsin. good morning to you.

>> reporter: oh, good morning, savannah. i can say with 100% certainty, i have never experienced cold like this in my life. it is ten below here in green bay . but with this wind, it feels like it's 40 degrees below zero . this is a deep freeze we haven't seen in decades. and it's only getting colder. and this is just miserably cold and extremely dangerous for anyone to be outside.

>> the big question, how low can we go? subzero temperatures sending us into the big chill .

>> these temperatures out there will be lower than what's in your freezer.

>> in many states, officials are warning people to stay inside and off the roads unless absolutely necessary. over the next couple of days, cities in the midwest and along the east coast could see temperatures drop 30 to 50 degrees with windchills hitting 50 to 60 degrees below zero . if you must get out on the roads this arctic blast makes de-icing your car almost impossible.

>> real slippery, icy. people falling, we almost fell.

>> reporter: the threat of dangerously cold temperatures forced minneapolis public schools to close for the first time in 17 years.

>> we've never experienced weather this cold ever.

>> reporter: classes are also canceled in chicago , nicknamed chiberia because of the brutally cold conditions there. air travel is already a nightmare in many regions and getting worse with thousands of flights canceled or delayed.

>> a few hearty souls are finding alternative ways around.

>> easier than a car or truck.

>> reporter: and here in green bay , tailgaters found ways to keep warm in the frozen tundra.

>> two grills going. one for warmth.

>> one for the feet, one for the food.

>> reporter: now the bitter cold temperatures brought a bitter end to the packers season. they lost here to san francisco at lambeau field . but even though back east it's pretty mild, this arctic air mass is headed that way. al, what is most interesting is how far south this deep freeze is going to stretch.

>> that's right. all the way down atlanta, down into florida. dylan, make sure you get inside really quickly. these kind of windchills, you can have frostbite within ten minutes. thank you so much. look at this. 26 states with either warnings or watches for windchills. this is crazy stuff from the dakotas all the way down to texas, into florida, into the northeast. and why are we going to be looking at this brutally cold air that's going to be making its way into the area. there's an area up to the north and literally the north pole , it's called the polar vortex . normally it stays to the north. think of this as a polar hurricane, basically. it has broken loose and now we get that counterclockwise flow around it and the polar vortex is sending in this brutally cold air that we normally don't see. these temperatures have not been seen for at least 20 years throughout much of the country. right now, it feels like 39 below in chicago , 45 in minneapolis. look, new york city , it's 53, 63 in norfolk, jackson feels like 7. tomorrow morning , new york city , 12 below, 20 below in caribou, and new york city , 14, chicago , 2. do we get any relief? the good news is, the latter part of the week, this arctic air mass will start to retreat as the polar vortex moves to the north, we're going to see winds that are going to start coming out of the west, more zonal. and that means temperatures actually start to warm up. cleveland, 39, new york 41, by friday, 69 in charleston, chicago will see 36. so the good news, we just have to wait a while longer. savannah.

>> but a while to get