According to WQAD News 8 Chief Meteorologist James Zahara, the brutal blast the area is experiencing is called a polar vortex, which means the cold air hitting the area originated at the North Pole.
“It is rare to see it swoop down as far as it did,” Zahara said, adding the bitter cold is being felt as far as the panhandle of Florida. Even Brownsville, Texas, which borders Mexico, is having wind chill advisories. “This is something you won’t see in several decades,” he said.
Zahara said he expects the area to see below zero temperatures, stretching from around 6 p.m. last Sunday all the way to noon today, Tuesday. He said that’s the longest stretch of below zero temps the area has seen since 1996, when our neck of the woods underwent 120 hours of below zero temperatures from Jan. 31, 1996, to Feb. 4, 1996, when the lows dropped between minus 19 to minus 28 degrees.
“There’s only been a small handful of times in my career (when it’s been this cold), Zahara said Monday morning as he checked his record books in the Quad Cities. He said in 2009, he recorded a January day with minus 27 degrees and a wind chill factor of minus 53 degrees. He believed the lowest high record on Monday of minus 8 degrees would be broken, as he predicted the high for Monday at minus 9.
But Mother Nature’s uninvited bitter chill isn’t going to stay around forever. In fact, Zahara said it won’t be long before “the pendulum is going to swing the other way.” While he said Bureau County might experience a little snow Wednesday evening and then some light rain/snow/sleet mix Friday night, the temperatures will rise considerably later in the week. It won’t be a heat wave, but “nothing compared to what we are dealing with right now. We’ll have another cold blast later next week, but it won’t be anything compared to what we are dealing with right now,” he said.
Zahara said he believes the extremely cold air has seen its day in Bureau County this year, but his hunch of a long, cold and snowy winter has been right on track. He said the county is above normal for precipitation, and he predicts that will hold true for the remainder of the winter. Normal precipitation is 36 inches, and he expects the area will end the season in the 40- to 45-inch range.