Commonwealth Journal

January 1, 2014

Brrr... Cold spell predicted next week

Arctic blast may bring rain & snow

by Bill Mardis
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —

Shades of Januarys past. Global warming advocates take cover!
It’s cold already and going to get colder. Snow may be falling as you read this. However, what we’re experiencing now is almost balmy compared to just around the corner. Some of the coldest weather in years is expected to descend on the Lake Cumberland area early next week.
Jane Marie Wix, meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Jackson, said an Arctic air mass, currently hovering over northern Canada, is moving south toward the continental United States. It is expected to arrive Sunday.
That’s next week. The future is now. A windy cold front, bringing rain changing to snow, is expected to drop temperatures into the 20s late today and into the low teens tonight. Up to an inch of snow may be on the ground by Friday morning, and high temperatures on Friday won’t get out of the 20s.
After a brief recovery early Sunday with temperatures warming into the 40s, the aforementioned Arctic front will start settling in Sunday afternoon, Wix said. 
That’s the bad boy. Arctic air is bitter, harsh cold. This area may have the coldest temperatures since the mid-1990s Monday through Wednesday next week.
Rain accompanying the Arctic blast will change to snow Sunday afternoon and there “definitely will be snow (accumulation) Sunday night,” Wix predicted.
How much snow is still a question. The weather disturbance at this point appears to have a potential to drop 1 to 5 inches of snow, the farther east the deeper, Wix said. More precise snow totals will be indicated as the exact path of the low pressure system is determined.
Sunday night’s low in the 20s will go no higher on Monday, Wix said. Temperatures will plunge into the single digits to near zero Monday night. Highs next Tuesday and Wednesday will be in the teens with lows near zero, the meteorologist predicted.
As somber as this sounds, severe weather expected next week has yet to compare with winters during the latter half of the last century. Relatively mild winters since the mid-1990s have spurred global warming enthusiasts to spend millions of tax dollars trying to figure where the cold air seeped out. A local wag suggested if next week is cold as expected, a refund is in order.
In the opinion of some weather scientists, absence of bitter cold and shoe-mouth-deep snow during the  past two decades does not endorse global warming. They agree weather trends are cyclical, pointing to tree rings indicating historical warm and cold periods.
From the 1960s through the mid-1990s, you could bank on temperatures plunging far below zero every January. Worst of the worst was January 19, 1994, when the temperature reached 32 degrees BELOW zero in Somerset with a foot of snow on the ground. Thirty-one years earlier, on January 24, 1963, it was 28 BELOW with 6 to 7 inches of snow.
There were several periods of bitter cold during the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s. On a day in the late 1980s, the temperature at noon was 6 below zero with 25-30 mph winds. That’s 6 BELOW zero ... at noon ... in Somerset! The National Weather Service said because of high wind and chill factor that day was the coldest in weather history.
No one will ever forget the winters of 1976-77 and 1977-78. For sustained cold, January 1977 was the coldest month in recorded weather history. Lake Cumberland was solidly frozen a foot thick. Thousands of water birds paddled furiously to keep small holes open for feeding. Trucks and cars fearlessly drove over the ice, oblivious to 90 feet of water below. A Commonwealth-Journal reporter-photographer observed ice 9 to 12 inches thick being cut with a chain saw at Lee’s Ford Marina Resort.
It was zero or below on 13 mornings during that unbelievably cold January. Water company workers, digging up a line on North Maple Street alongside the Commonwealth Journal building, found frozen ground 33 inches below the surface.
The warmest reading during that bitterly cold January was 43 degrees. The relatively mild temperature occurred at midmorning on a Friday late in the month with the annual banquet of the Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce set for that night. Suddenly, just before noon, wind whipped out of the Arctic and  banquet-goers shivered in 9-degree temperature as they headed to the (former) Holiday Inn festivities that night.   
January 1978 wasn’t quite as cold but snow piled 18 inches deep in places. A raging blizzard caused the governor to order everybody off the roads. Commonwealth Journal employees ignored the warning and published the newspaper on schedule. There was only one absentee in the entire newspaper plant on that day with drifting snow and nearly impossible travel.
Lake Cumberland froze solidly again in January 1978, the second and only times the entire surface has frozen during the reservoir’s 63-year history.