Tonight it gets worse.

Sharply cold weather moved in Monday, and it’s expected to intensify for a couple days. The National Weather Service says the wind-chill factor could be dangerously low tonight and Wednesday night.

A wind-chill advisory for the metro area takes effect at 6 this evening and runs through noon Wednesday. Although the actual lows for Eastern Jackson County are forecast at minus 4 overnight Tuesday and 4 above overnight Wednesday, the combination of wind and cold could push the wind chill as low as 20 below zero.

Independence will have the Sermon Community Center, 201 N. Dodgion St., available as a warming center 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. today and Wednesday, and the city’s limb drop-off for Wednesday has been canceled.

These cold conditions can be dangerous. Skin exposed to the cold can get frostbite in as little as 30 minutes with the wind-chill readings that are expected for the metro area. Hypothermia – a dramatic lowering of the body’s temperature – can be deadly. Symptoms include confusion, shivering, difficulty speaking, slurred speech and stiff muscles.

How to handle this? Dress in layers. Wear a hat and good boots. If you need to travel, make sure your vehicle is in good working condition and has such things as blankets, a flashlight with spare batteries, high-energy foods such as granola bars, jumper cables, a shovel and tools – and a full tank of gas. Check the forecast before you go, and let someone know your travel plans.

Officials across the state are underlining those points and suggesting people take care of themselves and checks on friends and neighbors, too. The governor’s office noted on Monday that wind chills could hit minus 40 in some part of the state.

The Eastern Jackson County forecast:

• Cloudy and windy today. High of 23. Low of minus 4, with wind-chill readings of minus 9 to minus 14.

• Sunny and very cold Wednesday. High of just 7 above. Wind chills during the day of minus 9 to minus 19. Overnight low of 4 above.

• Temperatures rise significantly late in the week. High of 32 Thursday, 44 Friday and 53 Saturday. Mild through the weekend; good chance of showers Sunday.

If it does get below zero tonight or in the early hours before sunrise Wednesday, as seems likely, it would be the area’s first below-zero reading in almost 13 months. The Weather Service also points out that the record low for Jan. 30 is 7 below zero, set in 1918, so there’s a chance that record could fall.

The Weather Service recorded a wind gust of 63 mph Monday morning at Kansas City International Airport as high winds accompanied rapidly falling temperatures. It also recorded 45 mph in Lee’s Summit and 51 mph in downtown Kansas City.

Heavy weather

Heavy snow and powerful wind created blizzard-like conditions Monday across parts of the Midwest, prompting officials to cancel about 1,000 flights at Chicago's airports and close hundreds of schools.

Forecasters warned the most dangerous weather is yet to come: frigidly low temperatures that the region hasn't seen in a quarter century.

Snowplow drivers had trouble keeping up with the snow in Minnesota and Wisconsin, where some areas got as much as 15 inches. Chicago-area commuters woke up to heavy snowfall, with more than 5 inches already on the ground. In Michigan, non-essential government offices were closed, including the Capitol.

But the snow is only "part one, and maybe even the easier part" because temperatures will plummet over the next three days, said Brian Hurley, a meteorologist with the Weather Prediction Center.

Wednesday is expected to be the worst. Wind chills in northern Illinois could fall to negative 55 degrees, which the National Weather Service called "possibly life threatening." Minnesota temperatures could hit minus 30 degrees with a wind-chill of negative 60.

"You're talking about frostbite and hypothermia issues very quickly, like in a matter of minutes, maybe seconds," Hurley said.

Cold weather advisories are in effect across a broad swath of the central U.S., from North Dakota to Missouri and spanning into Ohio. Temperatures will be as many as 20 degrees below average in parts of the Upper Great Lakes region and Upper Mississippi Valley, according to the National Weather Service.

The unusually frigid weather is attributed to a sudden warming way above the North Pole. A sudden blast of warm air from misplaced Moroccan heat last month made the normally super chilly air temperatures 20 miles above the North Pole rapidly rise about 125 degrees. That split the polar vortex into pieces, which then started to wander, according to Judah Cohen, a winter storm expert for Atmospheric Environmental Research, a commercial firm outside Boston. One of those polar vortex pieces is responsible for the sub-zero temperatures across the Midwest this week.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.