Cold snap: Near-record lows

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Local thermometers hit rock bottom over a very frosty weekend. The Powell Municipal Airport, for instance, registered a minus 41 degree wind chill Sunday morning.

However, the cold generally didn’t shatter records across northwest Wyoming.

“It’s unusual to have these temperatures in early March, but it’s not unheard of,” said Trevor LaVoie, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Riverton.

It does appear that, on Monday, March 4, Powell was the coldest its been in decades. Temperatures sunk all the way down to 17 degrees below zero in the early morning hours, either breaking or setting the record low. Weather Underground said the previous record was set on March, 4, 1989, at 15 below, but another company, Foreca, says the temperature sunk to minus 17 that year.

What’s undisputable is that the weather is much colder than normal. The average low for Powell in March is 21 degrees, with an average high of 49 degrees. The weekend weather was well below those marks, with the high in Powell creeping only a few degrees above zero on Sunday before plummeting to minus 17 Monday morning.

It continued a series of cold weeks: Throughout this climate region, temperatures in February ranged from 6 to 15 degrees below normal.

Cody had an average temperature of 13.3 degrees last month, which was 15.9 degrees colder than usual; in Greybull, meanwhile, the average February temperature of 14.2 degrees was 9.4 degrees below normal.

LaVoie said the lows followed the same arctic outbreak pattern that encased much of the Midwest and Great Lakes region in ice throughout January.

“That pattern has stayed in place,” he explained.

This past weekend, the southern edge of this pattern was seen as far south as the Texas panhandle, though the bulk of the really cold temperatures only went as far south as northern Kansas.

And it was the Midwest that endured the worst of this latest cold spell.

LaVoie said the pattern is quite a bit different from your typical cold front, which usually doesn’t send temperatures quite this low, especially in early March.

Adding to the effects of the pattern was the snow cover, which didn’t have a chance to melt. With the snow on the ground reflecting sunlight, it was harder for things to warm up in the daytime.

“It was enough to keep things in the single digits,” LaVoie said.

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