TRAVERSE CITY — Say so long to above-freezing temperatures for the near future.
The Arctic air that’s tortured exposed skin and kept many home-bound will return Friday, with no signs of abating for more than a week.
The cold will be accompanied by wind gusts up to 35 or 40 miles per hour. Temperatures will fall from the 20s to the single digits Friday.
“From what we’re looking at for the next seven to 10 days, we’re just going to get progressively colder,” said Mike Boguth, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Gaylord.
Driving conditions could become hazardous Friday. Tonight’s rain is expected to freeze as it hits the ground, and an expected one to two inches of snow Friday will swirl in the strong wind and could create visibility problems.
“The surface temperature of the road is just below freezing right now, so if we do get rain it potentially could freeze and just be ice on the road,” said Jim Cook, manager of the Grand Traverse County Road Commission.
Cook said temperatures in the 20s will allow his crews to use more salt in their salt-and-sand mixture and keep water from freezing for a little longer.
Crews spent the last two weeks cutting back snow banks and chipping through ice to allow melting water to drain.
Boguth said if the weather follows predicted patterns, by Feb. 26-27 temperatures will be 25 to 30 degrees below normal and struggle to get out of the single digits.
“Basically, we’re just going to go right back to the same pattern we’ve been in since the end of November,” Boguth said.
Weather patterns across the country affect cold spells here. Warmth builds in the west and causes California’s record droughts and high temperatures in Alaska.
“There’s got to be a downstream effect,” Boguth said. “That warmth goes up, grabs the cold at the North Pole, and pushes it back down right across our area.”
Even the sun, which — in theory — shows itself more often than even a month ago, will have a very limited effect on temperatures. The snow reflects the sun, keeping some of its warmth from hitting home, and the ground is so cold it will take several weeks before it even begins to thaw.
Such a persistent, cold winter hasn’t been seen in northern Michigan since the 1970s, Boguth said. The pattern itself isn’t abnormal either.
“What gave this winter such a wow factor is we’ve been coming off a multi-year stretch of winters that have been pretty tame,” Boguth said.