An Arctic blast hovered over Wyoming in the middle of the week, plunging temperatures well below freezing. The coldest reported locations in the state so far were Dubois in Fremont County and Grant Village in Yellowstone National Park.
Both reported a numbing 35 below zero, but dozens of locations reported temperatures of 20 below or worse.
In Powell, the low was hit at 7:45 a.m. Wednesday, with a record of 24 below zero, according to Chris Jones, a warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service. It has been below zero since 7:45 p.m. Monday.
Today (Thursday) should be even worse, if that is possible, according to the forecast. While the temperature may rise to 3 above zero, the windchill is predicted to hit 35 below zero today as the “massive Arctic front” continues to hang over the area, Jones said.
But he said a “gradual warming trend” is on the horizon, with temps in teens and 20s this weekend and a good chance for the high to get above freezing on Monday or Tuesday.
“We’re going to try to warm it up,” Jones said. “That is the hope.”
While it’s been teeth-chattering cold, it was worse 25 years ago, he said. February 1989 was a record-setting month, with an average temperature of 9.2 degrees, and average low of 3.4 degrees below zero.
The low hit 33 below on both Feb. 2 and Feb. 5, 1989, Jones said, so no records for all-time lows on specific dates have been set so far this month. However, the “high” on Wednesday was 10 below, and the record for Feb. 5, set of course in 1989, is 9 below.
On Wednesday, a drive through Powell around noon revealed no one was moving around on foot. Local schools remained open during this week’s cold spell, but kids haven’t gone outside for recesses.
“When it’s zero degrees or below — that includes wind chill — the kids stay inside,” said Brent Walker, principal at Westside Elementary School.
Walker said kids still get recess time indoors, and that looks different for each class. Some play games or watch a video. He said some students have played chess or participated in reading or math activities this week.
Kids get to choose what they want to do during indoor recess times. “It’s unstructured time,” Walker said.
At Parkside Elementary, kids have played in the gym during recess or participated in board games and other activities, said Kenny Jones, Parkside principal.
“When it goes on all week, the novelty wears off,” Jones said, saying the kids are ready to return to the playground.
“We do give them a break, but it’s not quite the same as going outside,” he said. “We try to make the best of it.”
This school year has seen numerous subzero days and even one day when students were inside because of rain, “which is unheard of,” Walker said.
Clark Elementary School had one snow day this school year, but Powell students haven’t had any so far. The district rarely cancels school for snow or cold weather.
“It’s Wyoming,” Walker said.
When kids are outside for recess when it’s above zero but still cold, the school helps out kids who don’t have warm clothes or gloves, Walker said.
Plumbers were kept running on Wednesday, responding to problems with frozen pipes and malfunctioning furnaces.
“Just heating issues and cold,” said Dirk Cozzens of Plumbing Plus. While he did receive a call about a furnace problem, most calls fielded related to frozen pipes.
“Sometimes people aren’t as prepared, then something like this happens, you get a little wind, and pipes freeze up,” Cozzens said. “The three I did this morning were frozen pipes in mobile homes.” “We’re trying to get things thawed out and going.”
One of those calls was a referral from another plumber who didn’t have time to respond, he said. By noon, Cozzens said he was overbooked as well.
Sanders Plumbing also reported receiving numerous calls from people who were having problems with their plumbing or heating — so many calls, in fact, that no one had time to talk about weather-related problems.
At 4-H Plumbing, calls for service related to frozen water lines, broken furnaces or problems with getting enough heat.
“More calls on freeze-ups,” said the woman who answered the phone. “Probably double the usual calls, but instead of leaky faucets ... it’s freeze-ups.”
Wind-blown snow caused a call to the Powell Volunteer Fire Department Wednesday morning when the snow blocked a mesh chimney vent and sent smoke into a Garland-area home. Fire department members were able to quickly unblock the vent and determined the Shalom Lane home was safe, said Fire Chief Joey Darrah. Darrah believed it was only the second time this winter that the department’s been called for a chimney problem, which he said is unusually low.
Here's a link to a National Weather Service map of the extreme cold that has settled in the region.
In addition, there are links to the NWS Twitter page and Facebook page.