Dangerously cold air this weekend as temperatures plunge


What has been a mild start to 2023 will grind to a halt this weekend as winter makes a roaring comeback across the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest.

Minneapolis residents have seen a mild January so far — at least by their standards — with temperatures not dipping below freezing this 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 across the central/northern plains to interior portions of the Pacific Northwest for the weekend into early next week.”

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

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

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

The dramatic shift from mild temperatures to bitter cold can catch people off guard.

Bozeman, Montana, for example, will go from a high of 33 degrees on Friday to a high of -3 on Sunday – with more than 40 straight hours below zero. Minneapolis will see a high of 33 degrees Friday plunge to a high of 3 degrees Monday. St. Louis will remain milder on Saturday, with a high of 56. However, on Sunday, the high will drop to 36 degrees and finally 16 degrees overnight into Monday.

Western cities will also experience dramatic falls. Denver will go from 30 degrees on Saturday to 7 degrees on Monday.

Air temperatures aren’t the only concern this weekend. Across much of the High Plains and Midwest, gusts of 20 to 30 mph will occur. While that may not seem very high, it doesn’t take much for frostbite to set in when the air temperature is already this cold.

“Wind chills could reach 40 below at times for these areas. Highs in the 0 to 10 degree range could extend as far south as northeastern Colorado and northern Kansas,” the prediction center said.

In this area, exposed skin areas can experience frostbite in just 10 to 15 minutes.

Another concern from that wind is its impact on blizzards. Blowing snow and reduced visibility will make travel difficult at times.

“The upper-level wave train has another snow machine for us this weekend,” the National Weather Service office in Milwaukee, Wis., said. “There will be a good period of light to moderate snow across much of southern Wisconsin from noon Saturday through Saturday night.”

Winter 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 shut down due to an 85-car pileup Friday afternoon, according to the Wisconsin State Patrol.

At least 21 people were taken to hospital in the area for non-life-threatening injuries, the police said.

From Saturday through Sunday, snow is expected to spread from the Cascades to the Rockies and into the Great Lakes region. Winter weather reports and winter storm warnings are in place for over 18 million people.

In general, southern Wisconsin, northern Illinois and much of Iowa will see 2 to 4 inches of snow, although these quick but intense snowfalls make it difficult to determine who will see the highest snowfall totals.

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

While the snow will be dominant a little further south, along the Iowa/Missouri border, according to the National Weather Service office in Des Moines, the office warns that it will be possible to see “a brief period of freezing drizzle and very light glass on ice Saturday afternoon.”

Snow will also fall this weekend across the Intermountain West. Most areas of Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Colorado and northern Utah will see light to moderate snow through Monday. However, the heaviest snow will occur in higher elevations in Wyoming and Colorado, where several feet of snow is possible.

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