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Bitter cold continues for Wisconsin, but finally some light at the end of the tunnel

Bitter cold continues for Wisconsin, but finally some light at the end of the tunnel

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Days of bitter cold with highs struggling to get out of the single digits lie ahead for southern Wisconsin, but there finally is a glimmer of hope with highs soaring to near 20 next Tuesday, according to forecasters.

Very cold temperatures and dangerous wind chills are expected to continue through this weekend, with the potential for more wind chill advisories, particularly over the weekend, the National Weather Service said.

Light snow is possible across southern Wisconsin Thursday afternoon into Thursday night and again late in the week.

Up to an inch of accumulation is possible south of a line roughly from Prairie du Chien to Wautoma to Green Bay, with up to 2 inches possible in Milwaukee and far southeastern Wisconsin.

Snow total ranges Thur-Fri by National Weather Service

Forecasters had been warning for about a month that a weakening in the polar vortex could send bitter cold plunging into Wisconsin. It took longer than initially predicted, but the frigid cold arrived last weekend may turn into the coldest stretch in Madison history by one measure.

Madison’s longest string of consecutive days with a daytime high temperature of 10 degrees or less is 10, which occurred in January 1963, followed by seven in January 1994, according to Steve Ackerman and Jonathan Martin, UW-Madison professors.

The high for Madison was 6 on Saturday, zero on Sunday, 5 on Monday, and 10 on Tuesday, and the highest high forecast through Monday by the National Weather Service and 27 Storm Track is 11.

The harshest cold of the winter that is punishing the north-central U.S. is due to a shift in the polar vortex that enabled frigid arctic air to flow south, AccuWeather said.

As a result of the frigid air, ice coverage on Lake Erie soared from 8% at 7 a.m. Sunday to more than 80% Tuesday afternoon, while overall ice coverage for the entire Great Lakes rose from around 12.6% in Saturday to around 24.8% Tuesday.

Fargo, North Dakota, last recorded a temperature above zero on Friday night, while Minneapolis made it to 1 for a short time Saturday afternoon but soon dropped back to zero and below and has remained there since, AccuWeather said.

In Madison on Wednesday, look for mostly cloudy skies, a high near 11, and northwest wind around 5 miles per hour, producing wind chill values of 10 below to zero, the Weather Service said.

After an overnight low around 6 below with wind chills of 20 below to 10 below, Thursday’s forecast features a 50% chance for snow, mainly after 4 p.m., increasing clouds, a high near 8 and north winds at 5 to 10 mph producing wind chill values of 20 below to 10 below.

Snow is likely overnight Thursday into Friday, mainly between 7 p.m. and 1 a.m., as the low falls to around 1 below, with possible new snow accumulation of less than a half-inch.

The Weather Service said chances for snow are 20% Friday before 7 a.m.; Friday night after 7 p.m.; Saturday 30%, mainly after 1 p.m.; Saturday night 30% before 1 a.m.; and 20% Monday night and Tuesday.

A storm pattern moving in from the Northwest is expected to make for a dreary Mother’s Day for many.

Skies over Madison should be mostly cloudy Friday and Saturday, mostly sunny Sunday, and partly sunny Monday and Tuesday, with highs near 9, 6, 2, 9 and 17, and lows Friday night through Monday night around 4 below, 11 below, 13 below and 3 below.

27 Storm Track meteorologist Max Tsaparis forecasts light snow developing Thursday afternoon into Friday morning, more light snow possible Friday night into Saturday, and again on Tuesday.

Tsaparis said highs for Madison Wednesday through Tuesday should be near 11, 8, 6, 6, 3, 2 and 17, and overnight lows around 7 below, 1 below, 4 below, 10 below, 15 below and 3 below.

Tuesday’s high in Madison was 10 at 4:01 p.m., 19 degrees below the normal high and 40 degrees below the record high of 50 for Feb. 9, set in 1925 and 1966.

Tuesday’s low in Madison was 18 below at 6:47 a.m., 31 degrees below the normal low and 10 degrees above the record low of 28 below for Feb. 9, set in 1899.

The heavy storm will make for a messy end to the week, as travel will be slowed and packing snowfall could accumulate for some.

No precipitation was recorded at the Dane County Regional Airport on Tuesday, leaving Madison’s February total at 0.34 inches, 0.06 inches below normal. The meteorological winter (December through February) precipitation total (rain plus snow converted to liquid) stayed at 2.74 inches, 0.63 inches below normal. The 2021 precipitation total stayed at 1.61 inches, 0.02 inches below normal.

Madison’s record precipitation for Feb. 9 is 1.29 inches in 2001.

With no snow on Tuesday, Madison’s February total stayed at 3.7 inches, the normal. For meteorological winter, Madison has received 34.2 inches, 4.1 inches above normal. For the snow season (since July 1), Madison has received 36.5 inches, 2.3 inches above normal.

Madison’s record snowfall for Feb. 9 is 6 inches in 2020.

Madison’s official snow depth is 13 inches.

Photos: Remembering greatest single-day snowstorm in Madison history

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