Bitter Cold in January
At Paducah, preliminary figures indicate January of 2003 was the eighth coldest January on record, and the coldest since 1985. At Evansville, where records date back into the late 1800's, January did not fall into the ten coldest winters. After the relatively mild winters of the past several years, the bitter mid-winter cold came as a shock to many of us. Temperatures fell below zero at many locations for the first time in several years. For example, at Paducah, the low of minus 3 on January 24 was the coldest temperature since the winter of 1996-97. Evansville's low of zero on January 24 was also one of the coldest in the past several years there.
Wind chills were around minus 10 on January 23, requiring the issuance of a Wind Chill Advisory for the first time since the new wind chill index was introduced a couple of years ago.
While January went into the record books as colder than normal, it was by no means unprecedented. No record low temperatures were set this January. However, a record cold high temperature of 12 degrees was set at Paducah on January 23.
The snowfall so far this winter has been above normal. Paducah has already exceeded its normal snowfall for the entire winter. The seasonal snowfall as of January 27 was 12.9 inches, which compares to a normal of about 11 inches for the whole season. Evansville has received a little less snow than Paducah, but has received more snow than normal for this point in the season.
Despite above normal snowfall, January was much drier than normal. The liquid equivalent of precipitation was just over 1 inch at both Paducah and Evansville. Preliminary figures indicate January of 2003 ranked as the second driest on record at Paducah, with 1.15 inches. The driest was in 1987, when rainfall was 0.99 inch. Evansville just missed the tenth driest January by .03 inch. Dry conditions in the upper Midwest are contributing to extremely low levels on the Mississippi River. The river was briefly closed to barge traffic by the Coast Guard, and weight restrictions remain in effect upriver from the confluence with the Ohio River.
While the temperature outlook for February indicates temperatures closer to normal (highs mainly in the 40's and lows in the 20's), a continuation of dry conditions is expected for February, which could lead to an early spring forest fire season.