After a blast of arctic air hammered the area over the past couple of weeks, relief from the bitter cold is in sight.
But likely only for one day, according to State Climatologist Harry Hillaker.
“Temperatures may actually get to normal on Sunday, but it looks like just a one-day event and it will get down again next week,” Hillaker said. “At least we’ll have more moderate temperatures. Southern Iowa would be back above freezing for one day.”
The pattern of cold weather started on Dec. 22 in western Iowa, when the orientation of the jet streams brought arctic air from northern Alaska straight to the Midwest.
“We’re basically getting colder air from a colder source,” Hillaker said. “The stronger that jet stream might be, the quicker that air gets here, so the less time it has to moderate the air temperature. It’s not an uncommon thing, just this time it’s been a bit more persistent since it’s been going on for about two weeks now.”
Temperatures registered as below normal statewide on Dec. 23.
Since Dec. 23, temperatures across the state have averaged 16 degrees below normal for this time of year.
“At times, like New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, it’s been running about 30 degrees below normal,” Hillaker said. “We had high temperatures below zero and lows well below zero. The coldest days were New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. That 30 degrees from normal is about the most you ever see any time of year.”
The high temperature in Creston on New Year’s Eve registered at -4 degrees, with the low at -18 degrees. New Year’s Day’s high temperature was recorded at -2 degrees, with a low of -20 degrees. The morning low temperature Tuesday was -17 degrees.
Hillaker said the typical afternoon high temperature for this time of year is about 31 degrees with a typical overnight low of 15 or 16 degrees.
The last prolonged cold spell similar to the one Iowa is currently experiencing came in December 2016. Hillaker noted that cold spell featured more snow, but also was not as persistent as the current cold spell.
For a 3 1/2 week stretch in February 2015 through the beginning of March, temperatures were close to 30 degrees below normal at times, but Hillaker noted since it was later into the winter season, normal temperatures were warmer than current normal temperatures.
“Overall outlook is keeping us on the colder side of normal for the next couple of weeks, but not looking as cold as what we just experienced,” Hillaker said. “It’s still not looking all that snowy. Although we’ve had a lot of very small snow events the past week and a half, we’ve not had any big storms yet this season. For the moment, it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon.”
Tips for the cold
Hillaker offers a variety of tips for dealing with the cold temperatures.
When driving long distances, drivers and passengers should remember to keep plenty of warm clothing on hand in the event of an accident or a breakdown.
“It’d be bad news if you got in an accident and didn’t have adequate clothing for temperatures,” Hillaker said. “Most of the time, you don’t think of that. With weather like this, you don’t want to be stuck outside for any length of time because you can get frostbite very quickly with the temperatures we’ve been seeing.”
Hillaker reminds people to check on both the very young and the elderly, as they are the most susceptible to the cold.
“Check on the elderly and ... make sure they have adequate heat,” Hillaker said. “If the furnace goes out or whatever the case may be, they may not be in a position to let anyone know.”
It is also important to keep an eye on household water lines and pets.
“Most of the time they [pets] can fend for themselves, but with temperatures like this this, maybe not,” he said. “You might throw a little extra shelter out if you can’t bring them in completely.”