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Frigid Arctic air and accumulating snow headed our way

Published: Feb. 4, 2021 at 5:53 PM MST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - It has been a warm and pleasant winter so far, but there are some big changes on the way – and soon. Wednesday’s high flirted with 60°, while Sunday’s high doesn’t look to reach double digits. A frigid, Arctic air mass will slam the region with very cold air.

The cold air on the way will be the coldest since 2019.
The cold air on the way will be the coldest since 2019.

It has only been two years since we have had air this cold in western South Dakota and northeast Wyoming. In 2019, the cold air arrived in early February. This year, about a week later than it arrived a couple years ago. I’m sure we all remember just how cold it was for all of February and the first half of March. Looking at the long-term model runs, we don’t look to be stuck in a frozen tundra for nowhere near as long as we did back then, thankfully! It does, however, look like this cold will stick around through the middle of the month, before the pattern breaks and near to above normal temperatures return.

Frigid air on the way next week
Frigid air on the way next week

A powerful cold front will sweep through the area Friday night. This will help usher in some much colder air for Saturday, where highs will only reach the teens. The cold air continues to pour in as highs Sunday and into early next week struggle to even reach double digits. Our low temperatures will be below zero Sunday morning and for much of the following week. The pattern doesn’t look to allow for teens to return until Wednesday at the earliest. There is hope in the forecast models that near to above average temperatures will be back near Valentine’s Day to warm up our hearts!

Coldest air will be in place Tuesday morning.
Coldest air will be in place Tuesday morning.

While the air temperature is forecast to be frigid, let’s not forget about our biggest cold air enemy – the wind chill. We will have some breezy days during this stretch of cold air, which will make temperatures feel significantly colder than what the thermometer reads. Wind chill values will likely be below zero from Saturday morning through the end of next week. There may be times it stays above zero, but barely.

This is what wind chill is and why it makes you feel colder.
This is what wind chill is and why it makes you feel colder.

Wind chill is where the winds remove a layer of heat released from your body and make it feel much colder than what the temperature actually suggests. Your body releases heat and that forms a thin layer of warmth around your body. When the wind blows, it pushes away that bubble of heat around your body, exposing your skin to the actual cold and makes it feel much colder than what the actual temperature says. This is why it is best to dress in layers and cover up as much exposed skin as possible. You will want to limit your time spent outdoors as much as possible. If you have to be outside for a long stretch of time, cover up as much exposed skin as you can. Hats, gloves, scarves, masks, anything. Frostbite can happen quickly when the thermometer drops below zero. Depending on the air temperature and time of day, wind chill can occur in a matter of minutes.

Tips to prepare for cold weather.
Tips to prepare for cold weather.

Be sure to prepare your pipes for the cold weather, insulate the pipes so it is more difficult to freeze them, have all faucets drip water when the temperatures are the coldest, open cupboards to allow for the heat from inside to get as close as the exterior source as possible. Bring your pets inside. If you’re cold, they’re likely cold, too. Make sure your fluids aren’t running low. Make a winter survival kit in your car and include the essentials - . If your car is parked outside it would help to turn your vehicle on and run it to make sure the battery doesn’t die. Just be sure to keep a very close eye on your vehicle so it doesn’t get stolen.

This is the snow potential through Monday. Snow forecasts below.
This is the snow potential through Monday. Snow forecasts below.

Along with the very cold air on tap, we have multiple snow chances that will bring some accumulations to much of western South Dakota and northeast Wyoming. You will want to get the snow shovels ready (maybe even broom/leaf blower as this snow will be light and fluffy, making it easy to sweep away) as snow moves in tonight, again Friday night and then Saturday night.

Active winter alerts through Friday morning.
Active winter alerts through Friday morning.

A Winter Weather Advisory is in place for the northern hills for tonight into Friday morning. A Winter Storm warning is in place for Sheridan County through Sunday afternoon. While the warning for Sheridan is for multiple days, I wouldn’t be surprised if we had advisories in place for the rest of Wyoming and parts of South Dakota Friday night and again Saturday night. Stay tuned for later developments with that.

Snowfall amounts tonight through Friday morning.
Snowfall amounts tonight through Friday morning.

Snow showers are ongoing as read this and will continue overnight. Much of the snow will come to an end by Friday morning as skies clear up a bit midday. Highest snow totals will be in the northern Black Hills and out toward the Big Horns, where 2″-5″ are possible. Less than an inch is expected in Rapid City and much of the South Dakota plains, while an inch or two will be possible in northeast Wyoming.

Here's a look at expected snow totals Friday night into Saturday morning. These ranges could...
Here's a look at expected snow totals Friday night into Saturday morning. These ranges could change.

Another round of snow moves in Friday afternoon/evening and will continue until daybreak Saturday. This round could bring accumulations for many more, but the amounts are not expected to be significant outside of the hills. A few inches will be possible on the plains, while higher amounts are possible in the northern hills and near the Big Horns. It is too early to talk about exact numbers for this, but I will likely include a snow forecast in tomorrow afternoon’s blog. Matt will have updates on social media over the weekend and in his forecast on KEVN Black Hills FOX News at 9 Saturday night.

Another blog should be posted around this time tomorrow, so keep a close eye to social media for it! Be sure to stay warm and safe during these frigid times.

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates.

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