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Deep freeze ending, rain possible this weekend as highs reach upper 40s
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Deep freeze ending, rain possible this weekend as highs reach upper 40s

From the Deep freeze: Read our coverage of the early 2019 polar vortex in southern Wisconsin series
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One of the coldest stretches of weather ever to hit Madison is just about over.

The high temperature on Friday is expected to reach 18, with the temperature finally getting above zero in the morning, ending a three-day stretch of below-zero temperatures.

The National Weather Service said that officially Madison reached zero at 8 a.m. Friday, meaning the city spent 66 straight hours below zero while it's now 75 hours at zero or below. Milwaukee spent 54 straight hours below zero.

But these are from records as Madison spent 96 consecutive hours below zero in 1996, and there are five other instances of four straight days of below zero, while Madison had nine straight days of zero or below in 1912. Milwaukee spent 113 straight hours below zero in 1912.

The Weather Service said the low on Thursday dropped to a record 26 below zero, beating the old record of 22 below for Jan. 31, set in 1985.

The high only reached 5 below on Thursday, just 1 degree off the record maximum high of 6 below in 1918.

With the arctic cold moving back north, milder air moves in, with highs possibly reaching the mid- to upper 40s Sunday and Monday.

The 80-degree shift in temperatures in the Midwest could cause major problems, such as burst water pipes, flooded rivers and crumbling roads.

"I don't think there's ever been a case where we've seen such a big shift in temperatures," said Jeff Masters, meteorology director at Weather Underground, in an interview with the Associated Press.

Before the big swing comes, people in southern Wisconsin still have to deal with very cold weather on Friday.

Most school districts have reopened after being closed since Monday, but the Monona Grove district wasn't able to reopen Friday, because the school bus company serving the district wasn't able to provide buses.

Nelson's Bus Service uses buses that run on diesel fuel, and most of the fleet is stored outside, so the extreme cold caused the diesel fuel to gel, not allowing the buses to operate properly.

"We cannot risk having students either waiting for buses that may never show up, or having students on buses that may become stranded without heat, in sub-zero or single digit temperatures," said Superintendent Dan Olson in a message to district families.

The only other schools affected by the cold on Friday morning were in the Montello district, with schools opening at 10 a.m.; the Monticello district, with schools opening at 9:45 a.m.; and the MATC Fort Atkinson campus, which is not holding classes on Friday.

The wind chill won't be as much of a problem Friday as it had been the past few days, but we could still see readings in the 10 below to 20 below range in the morning.

The Weather Service said temperatures could keep rising Friday night thanks to a south wind, so we could see a temperature of 26 by 5 a.m. Saturday.

There's a slight chance of drizzle or freezing drizzle Saturday afternoon with the high reaching 36, but there's a better chance of mixed precipitation Saturday night, with temperatures staying steady early on, then rising to about 43 in the overnight hours.

27 Storm Track meteorologist Guy Brown said we could see drizzle or a little light rain on Sunday with the high reaching 45.

Rain is likely Sunday night, mainly after 1 a.m., with temperatures only dropping to 39. Less than a tenth of an inch of rain is expected.

Monday could be the warmest day we've seen in Madison in about a month.

The Weather Service is forecasting a high of 48, with gusty winds and rain totaling up to a quarter-inch.

Rain is possible Monday night, but colder air moving in could change the rain to snow by Tuesday morning.

Snow is possible Tuesday through Thursday, with highs topping out around 30 each day.

Thursday's high of 5 below was 32 degrees below normal and 61 degrees below the record high of 56 for Jan. 31, set in 1989.

The low of 26 below was 38 degrees below normal and set a new record, breaking the old mark of 22 below in 1985.

Two-hundredths of an inch of precipitation fell at the airport on Thursday, putting the January and 2019 total at 2.56 inches, 1.33 inches above normal.

The record precipitation (rain plus snow converted to liquid) total on Jan. 31 was 0.60 inches in 1871.

For the meteorological winter of December through February, Madison has received 4.66 inches of precipitation, 1.69 inches above normal.

The precipitation on Thursday came down as 0.6 inches of snow, bringing the January total up to 19.8 inches, 6.9 inches above normal.

The record snowfall on Jan. 31 was 5.4 inches in 1965.

Madison has received 25.7 inches of snow since Dec. 1, 0.7 inches below normal, and 29.1 inches of snow in the snow season, 1.4 inches below normal.


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