Traverse City Record-Eagle

January 3, 2014

Forecasters: Expect subzero temps, bitter wind chills next week


— TRAVERSE CITY — Don't be fooled by the one-day stretch of relatively balmy weather Saturday — lake-effect snow, subzero temperatures and even-colder wind chills are poised to freeze Traverse City residents in their boots.

Saturday's temperatures should reach three degrees above normal, or 31 degrees, before plunging to bone-chilling levels early next week, said Tim Locker, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Gaylord.

Locker said lows in the negative single-digits, combined with 25 mph wind gusts should dip wind chills to minus-20 and minus-30 on Monday and Tuesday mornings, respectively. He said highs should only reach 4 and 6 degrees.

The bad news doesn't stop there; Locker said westerly winds will whip over Lake Michigan and Grand Traverse Bay, and that means lake-effect snow is highly likely.

"It's going to be cold and windy," he said.

Wind chill is a measurement of the effect of wind and cold on exposed skin. Locker said skin exposed in a minus-19 wind chill can freeze in 30 minutes.

"The higher the wind, it draws heat from the body quicker, reduces skin temperature and if it keeps going it reduces body temperature," he said.

Recent bitterly cold temperatures brought record numbers of Traverse City's homeless into night shelters run by Safe Harbor, a volunteer church effort. Ryan Hannon, a street outreach coordinator for Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan, said last year the shelters housed an average of 45 homeless each night.

On Thursday, the Presbyterian Church on Westminster Road housed 74.

"We were averaging a number in the high-60s the last few days before that," Hannon said. "The most we had a couple weeks ago was 76 one night. We haven't had this many before."

Hannon said Safe Harbor churches won't turn homeless away, but the recent influx may mean some will have to sleep on the floor. He said there's always a need for hand warmers, winter hats and gloves, long underwear and winter boots. Donations can be made directly at the Goodwill Inn on Keystone Road.

Low temperatures also pose increased risks for the Grand Traverse area's senior citizens.

Lori Wells, Traverse City Senior Center's deputy director, said her staff received several recent calls from seniors who let furnace problems go unaddressed for weeks. She said seniors shouldn't hesitate to reach out to the senior center or Grand Traverse County's Commission on Aging.

"We have a fund to help seniors pay for unmet needs," she said.

Wells said seniors should avoid shoveling driveways and be mindful about outdoor pets in excessively cold weather.

Locker said a southern dip by the jet stream is bringing low temperatures in the form of cold Arctic air over northern lower Michigan. He said temperatures should bounce back into the more-normal upper 20s late next week.

"The national Climate Prediction Center is predicting a colder-than-normal January, but a normal February and March," Locker said.