FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — After a mild first two months of winter, February has been a much different story.
We started the first of this month above average, and up until Monday, every day has been below average. Making us over 10 degrees below our average February temperature to date. The main reason was a stretch of 16 days spent below 32 degrees. Cold isn’t something new for winter in Indiana, but it is somewhat rare for us to see that kind of prolonged cold.
The last time we had two weeks below freezing was in 2017, prior to that it was 2015 with 19 days. None of these stretches compare to the 36 days below freezing in late 1976 and early 1977, which is the longest on record.
A couple of “cold” lights from the last two weeks include 3 nights below freezing with the coldest being six below on the 17th. And 15 inches of snow fell over the last 16 days with the bulk of snow this month falling on the 16th with 10.1″. That snow alone will make this winter and month memorable.
The big reason for this cold was the return of the polar vortex. Typically the polar jet remains stable, keeping the cold air to the north and the warmer air south. However, earlier this month, the air over the north pole was gradually warming.
This weakens the jet stream leading to larger waves and for the cold arctic air to spill further south.
In the Midwest, we may see this happen a few times a year, but this year record heat over the arctic led to the jet pushing even further south.
This devastated parts of the southern U-S with snow, below zero temperatures, and record cold.
For example, the city of Austin Texas saw over 6 inches of snow on the 15th, they only average a tenth of an inch all snow season. The lowest temperature they fell to was 6 degrees, to put that in perspective their average low for this time of year is near 40 degrees.
This kind of cold in parts of the country that aren’t used to it led to issues with infrastructure including electric grids failing with water pipes bursting.
The good news is that things seem to be stabilizing as the outlook into the start of March is favoring above-average temperatures across a large part of the country.
You can always find the latest forecast and conditions on your mobile device using the WANE Wx App.