The coldest air of the season has Wisconsin in a deep freeze with temperatures well below zero early Friday, but a warmer weekend is ahead and the rest of February is looking good, according to forecasters.
Lows across most of the state tumbled to double digits below zero, other than southeastern Wisconsin, where lows were in the single digits below zero, the National Weather Service said.
Madison hit 12 below at 4 a.m., just a degree warmer than the record of 13 below for Feb. 14 set in 1951, while wind chill values general ranged from 15 below to 25 below in southern Wisconsin, with a wind chill advisory in effect until 10 a.m.
This was the first time since last winter that Madison has been below zero: the monthly lows recorded at the Dane County Regional Airport have been 4 on Nov. 12, 1 on Dec. 18, and zero on Jan. 19 — a sharp contrast to last winter’s polar vortex-influenced record-setting cold stretches.
And it was much worse in areas to the north and west, with a wind chill warning in effect for northeastern North Dakota and northern Minnesota and wind chill values plunging to more than 40 below, the Associated Press reported.
The good news is that temperatures will be rebounding into the 30s over the weekend across southern Wisconsin, and the Weather Service said in a tweet that it’s “certainly looking possible that the 8 to 14 day period will have a decent chance to be warmer than average as we move into the second half of February.”
Certainly looking possible that the 8 to 14 day period will have a decent chance to be warmer than average as we move into the second half of February. In addition, there is a slight chance for below average precipitation as well. #swiwx #wiwx pic.twitter.com/LPyApwavIP— NWS Milwaukee (@NWSMKX) February 13, 2020
AccuWeather said cold waves through the end of February will be brief as the polar vortex is forecast to generally remain strong and hover near its home position above the Arctic Circle.
"Back-and-forth mild and cold weather conditions are likely to continue for the remainder of the month," AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok said.
In Madison on Friday, look for sunny skies, with a high near 14 and south winds at 5 to 10 miles per hour producing wind chill values of 10 below to 20 below, the Weather Service said.
After an overnight low around 7, with south winds at 10 to 15 mph and gusting as high as 30 mph, Saturday’s forecast features a 40% chance for snow before 3 p.m., rain and snow between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., and snow between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., mostly cloudy skies, a high near 35 and south winds at 15 to 20 mph, gusting to 30 mph.
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The Weather Service said there’s a 50% chance for snow after 1 a.m. through noon Monday, then for rain and snow through 2 p.m., rain between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., rain and snow between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., and snow after 10 p.m.; and a 40% chance for snow Tuesday morning, mainly before 7 a.m.
Skies over Madison should be mostly sunny Sunday, cloudy Monday, mostly cloudy Tuesday, and sunny Wednesday and Thursday, with highs near 31, 38, 29, 20 and 26, and lows Saturday night through Wednesday night around 20, 22, 23, 8 and 4.
27 Storm Track meteorologist Max Tsaparis forecasts a few flurries possible Saturday, a snow mix late Sunday, and a rain and snow mix Monday ending at night, with highs Friday through Thursday near 14, 34, 34, 36, 19, 18 and 23, and overnight lows around 8, 18, 28, 24, 6, 2 and 14.
Thursday’s high in Madison was 26 at 12:10 a.m., 4 degrees below the normal high and 25 degrees below the record high of 51 for Feb. 13, set in 1921.
Thursday’s low in Madison was 5 below at 11:45 p.m., 19 degrees below the normal low and 19 degrees above the record low of 24 below for Feb. 13, set in 1905.
Officially, 0.03 inches of precipitation was recorded at the Dane County Regional Airport on Thursday, boosting Madison’s February total to 0.48 inches, 0.12 inches below normal. The meteorological winter (December through February) precipitation total (rain plus snow converted to liquid) rose to 3.74 inches, 0.17 inches above normal. Madison’s 2020 precipitation total rose to 2.22 inches, 0.39 inches above normal.
Madison’s record precipitation for Feb. 13 is 1.03 inches in 1950.
The 0.8 inches of snow on Thursday boosted Madison’s February total to 8.1 inches, 2.9 inches above normal. For meteorological winter, Madison has received 29.8 inches, 1.8 inches below normal. For the snow season (since July 1), Madison has received 45.5 inches, 9.8 inches above normal.
Madison’s record snowfall for Feb. 13 is 10.3 inches in 1950.
Madison’s official snow depth is 9 inches.
Be prepared: Cold weather safety tips
Bundle up and wear layers
Wear layers of lightweight clothing to stay warm. Gloves and a hat will help prevent losing body heat.
Don’t forget furry friends
Bring pets indoors. If they can’t come inside, make sure that they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water.
Remember the 3 feet rule for space heaters
If you are using a space heater, place it on a level, hard surface and keep anything flammable at least three feet away — things such as paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs. Turn off space heaters before leaving the room or going to bed.
Practice fireplace safety
If you are using a fireplace, use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs. Make sure fireplace embers are out before leaving the room or going to bed.
Protect water pipes
Run water, even at a trickle, to help prevent water pipes from freezing. Open the kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Keep the garage doors closed if there are water lines in the garage.
Keep thermostat at same temperature
Keep the thermostat at the same temperature day and night. Your heating bill may be a little higher, but you could avoid a more costly repair job if your pipes freeze and burst.
The kitchen is for cooking
Never use a stove or oven to heat your home.
Use generators outside
Never operate a generator inside a home, including in the basement or garage. Don’t hook a generator up to the home’s wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator.