Remembering the January 18, 1994 Arctic Outbreak

The arctic outbreak coming for this Sunday through Tuesday (coldest day expected on Monday) looks similar to the January 18, 1994 arctic outbreak.  What happened then and how do they compare?

Temperatures

Wind Chills

Impacts

Discussion

Temperatures:

 

January 18, 1994

January 6, 2014 Forecast

 

High

Low

High

Low

Rochester, MN

-18

-29

-18

-28

La Crosse, WI

-16

-31

-16

-27

Lowest Wind Chills: (using "new" 2000 formula)

 

January 18, 1994

January 6, 2014 Forecast

Rochester, MN

-56

-60

La Crosse, WI

- 48

-54

Impacts to Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin from the January 18, 1994 arctic outbreak: (according to Storm Data)

  • 1 death in Minnesota due to hypothermia
  • Some people received frostbite and suffered from hypothermia
  • Numerous water pipes froze
  • Thousands of cars would not start
  • Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson ordered all Minnesota public schools closed due to the extreme cold and severe winter weather.
  • Most schools in Iowa and Wisconsin were closed
  • Many businesses closed or had shortened hours
  • Accidents were common across much of Minnesota as car exhaust froze on contact with the cold pavement, causing extremely icy roadways
  • Natural gas and heating oil were consumed at record levels in Wisconsin
  • Heat and power failed in many homes, businesses and schools in Wisconsin

Meteorological Discussion of January 18, 1994 arctic outbreak:

To begin with, much of the Upper Mississippi River Valley region was already experiencing arctic air, which settled in during the early morning hours of the 14th. Highs were struggling to get to zero each day prior to the January 18, 1994 arctic outbreak.  This event was the climax of the arctic air.

An arctic cold front passed through the region during the early morning hours of January 17, 1994.  In its wake, northwest winds ushered in a frigid airmass out of the Northwest Territories of Canada. Temperatures at La Crosse, WI plummeted from a high of -6 F at 1 pm on the 17th  to -22 F at Midnight, and to -29 F at 7 am on the 18th. This is almost a 25 degree temperature drop in a matter of 18 hours!  Add in the northwest winds that were blowing only at 5 to 10 mph at 7 am and you get the coldest wind chill observed around -48 F. 

The weather pattern quickly changed after this outbreak as the steering flow switched from Canada to the Pacific.  This caused temperatures to climb each day thereafter with temperatures in the 30s observed by the 23rd.



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