Arctic Cold Moves In

By Justin Gehrts, Meteorologist

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - The leading edge of the Arctic air is pushing across eastern Iowa today, with temperatures falling into the teens for the afternoon. Saturday morning temperatures briefly reached to or a little above freezing, so the little bit of snow that melted into slush will refreeze and cause icy patches. Scattered snow showers will also pass across the area, although amounts will generally range from a dusting to an inch. Some locally higher totals are possible in the far south.

A wind chill warning goes into effect later tonight. Temperatures will continue to fall to a few degrees below zero overnight. North winds of 15 to 30 mph will cause wind chills to drop to near -20. Temperatures will only recover to near zero on Sunday, and since winds will remain strong and gusty, wind chills will remain near -20.

Sunday night through the day Monday will be when the most dangerously cold weather occurs. Low temperatures are expected to fall to -20 to -25. Northwest winds of 15 to 30 mph will continue. Monday morning will see the coldest wind chills, with the entire area having wind chills of -40 to -50. By afternoon, wind chills will be around -30 to -40, occasionally colder. Actual highs will probably stay in the -10 to -15 range, which is very close to the all-time coldest high temperatures on record in eastern Iowa.

Winds will diminish somewhat Monday night and Tuesday, although lows Tuesday morning will still be near -20. Most of the day Tuesday will have subzero temperatures with wind chills near -20.

THIS IS A POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS SITUATION. Frostbite will occur in less than 15 minutes on exposed skin! Limit your time outdoors. If you must spend time outside, wear several layers and cover as much exposed skin as possible. Do not leave pets outdoors – animals left out of warm shelter will freeze.

This cold wave will feature actual air temperatures that are the coldest since 2009. However, that cold wave had much lighter winds. The intensity of the low wind chills, and the length of time spent below zero, will be the worst eastern Iowa has experienced since 1996. This is an exceptionally strong blast of Arctic air. Plan ahead and be prepared – water pipes may rupture and power outages may occur (given the gusty winds). We will also be reaching temperatures at which vehicle exhaust may freeze directly onto pavement, causing icy patches.
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