What has been a mild start to 2023 will come crashing to a halt this weekend as winter makes a roaring comeback across the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest.
Minneapolis residents have seen a mild January so far – at least by their standards – with temperatures failing to fall below zero this month and averaging about 7 degrees above normal.
“Dangerously cold temperatures and wind chills are forecast across the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest through early next week,” the Climate Prediction Center said. “Expect much below normal temperatures across the central/northern Plains to interior portions of the Pacific Northwest for the weekend into early next week.”
High temperatures will be in the single digits or even subzero range across much of the northern tier of the United States – between 25 to 40 degrees below normal. Overnight lows will be downright frigid, resulting in wind chill advisories being issued for portions of Minnesota, North Dakota, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas and Montana.
“This would be the coldest weather since Christmas for this region, with locations from eastern Montana to northern Minnesota likely remaining below zero for highs Saturday through Monday, and perhaps into Tuesday,” the prediction center said.
These temperatures may come as a shock to many since most of January has been so mild. Chicago and Kansas City are both running more than 9 degrees above normal for the month, and Minneapolis and Oklahoma City are running at least 6 degrees above normal for January.
The dramatic shift from mild temperatures to bitter cold may catch people off guard.
Bozeman, Montana, for example, will go from a high of 33 degrees on Friday to a high of -3 on Sunday – with more than 40 straight hours below zero. Minneapolis will see a high of 33 degrees Friday plummet to a high of 3 degrees Monday. St. Louis will remain milder on Saturday, with a high temperature of 56. On Sunday, however, the high will fall to 36 degrees and eventually reach a low of 16 degrees Monday night.
Western cities will also witness dramatic drops. Denver will go from a high of 30 degrees on Saturday to a high of 7 degrees on Monday.
Air temperatures are not the only concern this weekend. Across much of the High Plains and Midwest, winds will be gusting 20 to 30 mph. While that may not seem very high, it doesn’t take much for frostbite to set in when the air temperature is already so cold.
“Wind chills could reach 40 below at times for these areas. Highs in the 0 to 10 degree range may extend as far south as northeast Colorado and northern Kansas,” the prediction center said.
At that range, exposed areas of skin can experience frostbite in just 10 to 15 minutes.
Another concern from that wind is its impact on snow storms. Blowing snow and reduced visibility will make travel difficult at times.
“The upper level wave train has another snow maker for us this weekend,” said the National Weather Service office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “There will be a good period of light to moderate snow for much of southern Wisconsin from midday Saturday through Saturday evening.”
Winter conditions started to affect travel in parts of the Midwest on Friday. A portion of Interstate 39/90 between the cities of Beloit and Janesville in Wisconsin was shut down due to an 85-car pileup Friday afternoon, according to the WIsconsin State Patrol.
At least 21 people were taken to area hospitals for non-life-threatening injuries, police said.
From Saturday into Sunday, snow is expected to spread from the Cascades to the Rockies and into the Great Lakes region. Winter weather advisories and winter storm warnings are in place for over 18 million people.
Generally speaking, in southern Wisconsin, northern Illinois and much of Iowa there will be 2 to 4 inches of snow, though these quick but intense snow burst events make it difficult to pinpoint who will see the highest snowfall amounts.
“An additional narrow swath of 4-6” of snow, with locally higher totals, is forecast from northern Iowa through Lower Michigan by early Sunday,” the prediction center said.
While snow will be predominant a little farther south, along the Iowa/Missouri border, according to the National Weather Service office in Des Moines, the office warns that it will be possible to see “a brief period of freezing drizzle and very light glazing of ice Saturday afternoon.”
Snow will also fall this weekend across the Intermountain West. Most areas of Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Colorado and northern Utah will see light to moderate snow through Monday. However, the heaviest snow will occur in the higher elevations of Wyoming and Colorado where multiple feet of snow are possible.