Wild Weather Hits Northwest With Snow Even as Midwest Gets a Taste of Summer

(AP) —
A person cycles on a street in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Monday. (Heywood Yu/The Canadian Press via AP)

February’s end is bringing wild weather to much of the United States, with record heat allowing for golf in Wisconsin and outdoor food trucks in Minnesota, along with an increased fire risk across much of the Great Plains. But blinding snow in the Northwest is blowing eastward, and places like Chicago should see temperatures swinging dramatically from balmy to bitter cold again.

The sunny weather won’t last that long. A powerful storm started dumping snow that could reach several feet in higher elevations of the West promises a return of winter conditions to the central U.S., where it’s been unseasonably warm. High winds are already blowing, raising the risk of wildfires across the Great Plains.

This time of year should be the coldest in places like Chicago. But the city and many others across the central U.S. are getting an early taste of summer with temperatures in the 60s and 70s.

The warm conditions have continued since a balmy weekend brought temperatures reaching into the 60s in Denver, Chicago, and Des Moines, Iowa. Kansas City, Missouri, enjoyed temperatures in the mid-70s.

In Chicago, temperatures reached 72 degrees (22 Celsius) by Monday afternoon, breaking Chicago’s old record of 64 degrees (18 Celsius). Winds were expected to ramp up to 25 mph (40 kph).

Highs on Monday were expected to reach the mid-60s across southern Wisconsin and extend as far north as Rhinelander, a city of 8,000 just below Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It reached 64 degrees (18 Celsius) in La Crosse, eclipsing the record for the date of 61 degrees (16 Celsius).

“We’re blowing away the records in northern Illinois into south central and southwestern Wisconsin,” said Mark Gehring, a weather service meteorologist in Sullivan, Wisconsin.

Places like Chicago will see a dramatic drop in temperatures by Wednesday, with highs just below freezing and winds gusting as hard as 30 mph (48 kph). In Minnesota, colder weather Tuesday and Wednesday could bring an inch or two of slushy snow that could freeze and make for a dangerous Wednesday morning commute, the weather service said.

Gehring attributed the unseasonable warmth to an El Nino pattern, the term for warming in the equatorial region of the Pacific Ocean that pushes the jet stream further north. These bands of strong wind form a boundary between cold northern air and warm southern air. Gehring also noted that climate change has been playing in a role in warming temperatures for decades.

The warmer conditions in many parts of the country have led to the cancellation of winter events like ski races and pond hocket tournaments. The latest cancellation was the longest sled dog race in the eastern United States.

But the warmer temperatures have brought increased risk of fires across the Great Plains.

The National Weather Service said dry, gusty winds were creating what it called critical fire weather conditions, and issued red flag warnings and fire weather watches in parts of New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, up to Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and east to Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri.

Nearby states, including parts of Arkansas, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, were under hazardous weather outlooks because of an increased fire danger, according to weather service maps. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources issued an advisory discouraging burning anything outdoors, noting that 15 wildfires sprang up over the weekend, consuming more than 30 acres.

To Read The Full Story

Are you already a subscriber?
Click to log in!