Feb 19, 2021

After historic cold snap, NWS Kansas City forecasts weekend warm-up

Posted Feb 19, 2021 1:30 PM


St. Joseph Post

After a record-setting cold snap across the region, forecasters are predicting temperatures closer to and above normal.

Just how cold has it been these last couple of weeks? The National Weather Service office in Pleasant Hill/Kansas City hasn't recorded an above freezing temperature since February 6.

That should change soon, with forecasted highs on Saturday and Sunday in the mid-to-upper 30s, and 40s and 50s expected next week.

"The good news is, we'll start to see a west-southwesterly flow develop this weekend," National Weather Service meteorologist Brad Temeyer said. "That's going to draw warmer air into the region. That should allow that snow to start melting and conditions continue to warm."

Even so, that'll be a 14-day stretch of sub-freezing temperatures - the 15th longest below freezing duration in 133 years of NWS Kansas City records.

"It's not completely unheard of here," Temeyer says, "but, it's very unusual."

The unusualness was most apparent Monday night and Tuesday morning, when the Southwest Power Pool conducted controlled power outages as a way to lighten the load on the strained power grid. 

More than 170,000 Evergy customers lost power during the temporary power outages, which lasted between half an hour to an hour, according to Evergy spokesperson Andrew Baker.

"(Tuesday) was the coldest day that our service area has experienced to date," Baker said. "We saw temperatures as low as -22. It's the cumulative effect of long-term cold we've been in. Everything requires more energy to stay warm. Every day that goes by, it requires more energy."

Evergy has since resumed "normal operations," and no longer requires power conservation from customers. But, he was right about Tuesday morning being one of the coldest ever.

St. Joseph's low  Tuesday was -22. That shattered the previous record of -13 set in 1979 and was a whopping 44 degrees below normal.

St. Joe certainly was not alone.

Lincoln, Nebraska hit 31-below Tuesday morning - the coldest temperature recorded in the city since 1887. Omaha and Lawrence, KS also set records Tuesday with a -22 reading.

Topeka hit -21 Tuesday, which was the seventh coldest temperature ever recorded there. And how about a -34 reading in York, NE?

Monday night and Tuesday was the worst of it, but for two weeks, temperatures across the region struggled to make it out of the teens and consecutive nights of below-zero lows became commonplace.

Temeyer says this pattern was the result of a Polar vortex - an air mass that brings in frigid north winds from the north pole.

"Usually, we'll see a flow out of the north that will draw down some colder temperatures," he said. "But, it won't be as prolonged as what it's been, and that's what made this one so unique. It's allowed that colder air to settle as far south as Texas, where they've seen some all-time record lows."

"It's just been a prolonged, light north-northeast wind originating at the poles, and that's allowed that colder air to filter in."

As of Thursday morning, more than 485,000 Texas homes and businesses were still without power due to the extreme cold.

It's been a long, cold spell, but Midwesterners have already noticed improvement. Highs on Thursday reached the mid 20s, and the mercury will continue to rise in the coming 7-10 days.

"We're looking at this cold streak starting to come to an end," Temeyer said. "By the end of the weekend, we could be looking at temperatures return to above freezing, which is about two weeks of below freezing temperatures.

"We're changing the trajectory of where our air is coming from. So, instead of coming from the north and polar region, it's coming more from the four-corners region, which is a much warmer region obviously, and that's going to lead to a warm-up across the Central U.S."

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