ESCANABA - Despite meteorologists at the National Weather Service's reporting this December was the fifth coldest recorded at the Marquette Office since 1961, next week's cold snap is expected to be even colder. In the Escanaba area wind chills could plummet to dangerous levels near -35 degrees.
"This will be the coldest that we've seen thus far," said Steve Fleegel, meteorologist with the NWS's Marquette office.
Today temperatures are expected to peak near 24 degrees around noon before falling to around 16 degrees for the remainder of the day. During the overnight hours, temperatures are expected to drop to as low as -3 degrees with westerly winds around 10 mph bringing wind chills between -10 and -15 degrees.
Temperatures will continue to drop throughout the weekend, with Sunday seeing a high around 6 degrees and overnight lows near -12 degrees.
"Monday morning will be the worst for wind chills in the Escanaba area," said Fleegel.
Monday temperatures will remain below zero with highs around -3 degrees. However, steady winds 10 to 20 mph from the west and northwest could cause wind chills in the Escanaba area to reach as low as -35 degrees. Other parts of the interior, western half of the Upper Peninsula could see even colder wind chills nearing -45 degrees.
"The wind chill factor will be pretty cold out there and could be dangerous," said Fleegel.
While the safest course of action in extremely low temperatures is to stay indoors, those who must travel are urged to wear warm layers and limit the amount of exposed skin.
"Make sure you're gas tanks are filled so you don't get stranded," said Lieutenant Rob LaMarch of Escanaba Public Safety.
Even though vehicles may be warm, motorists should carry clothing that is warm in case they become stranded. Those drivers who become stranded should call 911 for assistance.
"If the car can stay running, use the heater and stay inside until we get there," said LaMarch, adding that unlike snowy conditions, when snow can block the tail pipes and cause exhaust to back up into vehicle, it is safe to continue running an engine in extreme cold.
LaMarch also noted that pets should be kept inside and animals that are better acclimated to the colder temperatures - such as those with long fur - should have their water checked frequently to make sure it hasn't frozen.
Luckily, the cold snap is not expected to last long.
"The way it's looking right now there seems to be some moderation coming in the later part of next week," said Fleegel, adding that the warm-up would likely begin Thursday with temperatures reaching more typical ranges in the teens and 20s by the weekend.
Usually, the Upper Peninsula sees more snow than bitter cold due to the moderating effects of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. However, the persistent cold seen during December has caused many bays, including the bay of Green Bay, to freeze earlier than usual reducing the warming effect of the waters.
"To see such a persistent cold pattern is unusual," said Fleegel.
The pattern of cold air being drawn down from Canada is similar to a weather system seen in February of 1996. During that cold snap, temperatures plummeted, freezing buried waterlines beneath roads in parts of the U.P.
"Fortunately for this year, compared to February of 1996, there's more snow on the ground, which should limit the amount of pipes freezing," said Fleegel.