Extreme cold to hit area Monday

Published 10:12 am Friday, January 3, 2014

Next week may not set records for frigid temperatures, but it will come close.

Area schools and businesses are watching thermometers after the National Weather Service is calling for a high of -16 degrees on Monday, with a low of -21, and wind chills expected to reach as low as -60 during the day.

“It’s very rare to see temperatures that cold, especially for this area,” said NWS meteorologist Jeff Boyne.

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Boyne said cold masses of arctic air have periodically dropped into the region this winter, which is causing the extremely cold weather. A strong mass of cold air will hit the area starting Sunday, and temperatures won’t come back above 0 until Wednesday.

The predicted temperatures will be the coldest on record since February of 1996, and Monday will likely break day temperature records for Jan. 6 of any year since 1938.

While the cold temperatures are bad enough, there should be strong winds throughout the weekend and into next week that will further drop temperatures. Boyne said 15 to 25 mph winds will be an issue for people commuting to work.

“It already gets to the -40, -50 range Sunday afternoon, and it stays pretty much right around there,” he said. “It could potentially get as low as -60 on Monday morning, that’s when the coldest temperatures are expected.”

Area schools are watching the weather closely. Rochester Public Schools has already canceled classes for Monday. Austin Superintendent David Krenz said Austin Public Schools administrators usually wait to cancel school until temperatures drop lower than -30 degrees, based on meetings and advice they’ve had with other meteorological organizations.

“The main reason for that was at -30, you can get frostbite in 30 minutes,” Krenz said.

Krenz said if temperatures are going to drop as predicted, Austin schools will likely cancel classes for the day.

“It’s always the safety of the kids first,” he said.

Austin Utilities is preparing for the cold by working on water mains throughout the city. General Manager Mark Nibaur said three broken water mains were reported on Friday, and he expects a few more broken water mains to be reported throughout the weekend, due to the frigid weather.

“You’ll see trucks and vehicles out over the next few days,” Nibaur said. “Please make sure to watch out for our employees while they’re working.”

Gas and electricity shouldn’t be affected by the weather, as Nibaur said Austin Utilities has secured extra gas to keep up with rising need and the company’s electric operations are protected from extreme cold. Yet Nibaur cautioned that the extreme weather and increasing need for resources this winter will likely result in higher-than-average utilities bills in February.

There’s a 20 percent chance of snow on Wednesday in Mower County, with a high of 12 degrees. Thursday should bring a high of 19 degrees and Boyne said Friday’s high could rise into the 30s.