Cold temps short of record

By The Mercury

It’s cold, but not that cold.

The high on Sunday was a frigid 11 degrees Fahrenheit and the overnight low was minus-10.

But those temperatures didn’t even get close to the records.

Kansas State University Research and Extension climatologist Mary Knapp said the coldest record high for Jan. 5 was minus-4 degrees, which was recorded in 1884. The record low, minus-22 degrees, was recorded in 1984.

So, what’s causing such a spell in nature’s refrigerator?

Knapp said that an air mass from the Arctic Circle has moved down into the Midwest.

Arctic air moves down from the North Pole every year, but this is different because of the size of the air mass and how far it moved.

Knapp said that when the arctic air moves this far south, it is called a polar vortex. It differs from typical winter weather in that the mass of air is larger, it brings more intense cold and it moves much farther south.

“It’s just the name they give it,” she said. “We’ve had these southern progressions before, but (this) is much larger and more intense.”

She said that the last time this kind of cold moved down into the plains was in 1989.

So, for those who have not lived in the Great Plains long enough to feel one of these arctic blasts, Knapp said it can be quite a shock.

The good news is that the shocking cold will not last long.

Knapp said that winter temperatures should return to normal by Tuesday.

She said that a milder cold snap is forecast for Wednesday, but by the weekend temperatures should be back in the 30s and 40s.

For today, several city venues and events have been closed or cancelled.

Sunset Zoo shut its doors for a second day in a row to keep people and animals safe and warm, according to its daily tweet. It also shut down its daycare, Zoo Sprouts.

Manhattan parks and recreation department sent out a notice, stating that all youth basketball practices had been canceled because of the cold.

USD 383 likewise didn’t take any chances.

The district sent out a text Sunday that stated all Manhattan and Ogden schools would be closed Monday because of frigid morning temperatures.

USD 383 Superintendent Bob Shannon said he expects classes to start on time Tuesday, but the weather would be monitored.

Shannon said his personal criteria for closure would be sustained wind chills of 20 below zero.

The forecast for Tuesday shows the lowest wind chill being minus 16 degrees in the morning.

A team of five people decide whether or not schools should be closed: Shannon, associate superintendent Bob Seymour, maintenance director Keith Noll, transportation director Doug Messer and communications director Michele Jones.

Shannon makes the final decision.

USD 383 has three built-in snow days, plus the option to extend the end of the school year by a day if a fourth day is needed.

Monday was the first snow day the district has used in the current school year.

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