Deep freeze is in retreat

February 2, 2019

SULLIVAN -- It’s not time to break out the shorts and sandals just yet, but the deep-freeze that stalled over Wisconsin and other parts of the Midwest the past few days appears to be on the retreat to its polar origin.

National Weather Service meteorologist Rebecca Rogers said Thursday the frigid polar vortex weather system that engulfed the Midwest this week in record-setting low temperatures is moving away, and in its place will come unseasonably warm weather Saturday and Sunday. This relative warmth will be accompanied by rain that could melt some of the snow that has accumulated after recent storms.

The Madison and Milwaukee areas, including Watertown of course, broke records in the past week with dangerously low air temperatures. According to the NWS, on Wednesday, Madison set a record for its lowest high temperature, which was minus 10 degrees. The previous record had been minus 1 set in 1951. The lowest high temperature on record for Milwaukee had been minus 3, set in 1951, and the lakeside city registered 10 below zero for its high Wednesday, as well.

Record low temperatures for Madison and Milwaukee were also established on Thursday morning. At that time, Madison thermometers had readings of 26 below zero -- their lowest points during the cold spell -- breaking a record of 22 below set in 1985. At the same time, Milwaukee residents endured a low of 23 below, breaking a record of 15 below set in 1899. These numbers do not take into account the wind chill.

“I laugh a little when I say this, but it’s going to be warmer today, with a high of minus 3,” Rogers said Thursday morning.

Today, temperatures in the Watertown area are expected to rise to 18 degrees on the positive side of the thermometer, with cooling in the afternoon into the negative degrees. Saturday’s highs are expected to be in the 30s, with the thermometer topping out Sunday at about 44 degrees.

Rogers said rain and drizzle on Saturday will hit the ground and likely form ice, so anyone venturing out should watch their steps. By Sunday, she said, the ground and pavement may warm up enough so rain will fall and melt some snow and ice.

The high Monday is expected to be in the upper 40s. This will likely be short-lived, however, because temperatures may slide down to a high of 29 degrees Tuesday and 25 degrees Wednesday. Thursday is expected to be much colder again, with a high in the single digits.

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