As Dean Martin once sang, baby, it’s cold outside.
Just when feeling was starting to return to our extremities after the polar vortex left us shivering two weeks ago, the thermometer dipped into the single digits or below Wednesday morning, leading to another round of school closings and delays, dead batteries and frustration.
The official low temperature Wednesday in Washington was minus 3, according to the National Weather Service. In Pittsburgh, it was a comparatively toasty 2. By afternoon, it had reached double digits, but just barely, settling in the vicinity of 10 degrees.
And the day when the long johns and mittens can be stashed away won’t be arriving imminently. Though there will be a warm-up to about 30 degrees on Saturday – accompanied by snow – the chill will be back next week with a vengeance. On Tuesday, the forecast high temperature is 8 degrees.
The most recent cold snap has not been caused by the polar vortex returning for an encore. Rather, it’s an area of low pressure near the poles “that has shifted and expanded out and has allowed arctic air to come further south,” according to Mike Kennedy, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Moon Township.
“It’s not a new phenomenon,” he added.
Despite the fact that January has seemed like a long, unusually hard slog through the deep freeze, this month’s weather has not been that far out of the ordinary, Kennedy pointed out. Because the last couple of Januaries have been warmer than average, with those random days where opening the windows was not out of the question, we’ve forgotten, to a certain degree, just how cruel January can be. The average high and low temperatures for the month have only been a couple of degrees below average, Kennedy explained.
“It probably seems cold,” he said.
If there’s a blessing for this region, it’s that supplies of propane gas, typically used to heat homes in rural areas, appear to be holding steady. It has been at a premium in Great Lakes states like Ohio, Michigan and Indiana, in part due to the cold weather and also because propane was used in abundance to help dry out the fall corn crop.
“We’re still getting our propane tanks as usual,” according to Bob Kuharik, an assistant manager at Miller’s Ace Hardware store in McMurray.