January 8, 2014 | Volume 101 / Number 2

Polar Vortex? Arctic Weather Settles In

Every major news station has picked up the phrase, polar vortex. Has Glasgow really been sucked into some vortex that's dropped the temperatures below zero?

Bonnie Davidson / The Courier
City workers try to remove snow off of 3rd Avenue South on Friday, Jan. 3, after freezing rain and temperatures started to rise. Roads that evening were treacherous as Arctic winds and cold were pushed in by a low pressure system.

The easy answer to that is no. Tanja Fransen, warning coordination meteorologist at National Weather Service Glasgow, explains that this is actually just a low pressure system that came down from the North Pole and brought the cold weather with it. The Arctic cold front pushed down farther south than usual, which brought colder than average temperatures to much of the nation.

"Early December was actually a lot colder," Fransen said. "It was actually 8 degrees colder."

What caused a more dangerous situation in our area were the warmer temperatures that hit, along with freezing rain, right before the deep freeze hit. On Friday, Dec. 3, Glasgow and Valley County woke up to freezing rain and ice, followed by warmer weather that turned the snow on the roads into slush. Temperatures started dropping that evening, which turned roads and driveways into ice.

Ice also caused some issues at the Glasgow International Airport. Flights for Cape Air didn't run along with a few other flights on Dec. 29 through Jan. 2. Ice on the runway caused most of the airport to shut down, but a few pilots were still able to manage the runway at their own risk.

With wind chill factors hitting the area, Glasgow saw the lowest temperature hit on Jan. 5 at 8 a.m. at 50 below zero. Without wind chill factors, that actually looked more like 26 below zero. Fransen said that the downtown area could have easily seen a few degrees colder at around 30 below zero.

"This is not rare; it hits a few times a year," Fransen said.

She added that major media has been exaggerating and some of the wind chill temperatures being broadcast have been based on an older formula that isn't used anymore. Wind gusts in Valley County on Friday, Jan. 3 also may have added some extra cold to the freezing temperatures. The weather service reported the Northwest Hell Creek Recreation Area had a gust at 54 mph, and Glasgow saw its strongest gust at 37 mph around 4:30 p.m.

With winter officially beginning just before Christmas, the real weather news may be the amount of precipitation that the area will see.

Sidney broke its annual precipitation on the last few days of December. The previous record of 21.59 inches in 2010 was pushed up to 21.62 inches.

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