Local schools will remain closed Thursday for a third consecutive day, and it's hard to imagine the county schools, at least, reopening on Friday.
But a thaw will begin in earnest on Thursday, after one final night of single-digit temperatures. And, after that, it looks like the truly frigid arctic air will be out of the way for a while. Don't get used to the somewhat milder weather, though.
Unofficially, we hit zero degrees in Oneida on Wednesday. If verified by the National Weather Service, it will mark the third time this winter that we've been at zero. It's been a long time since that's happened in a single winter, but it gets even more impressive: we've been in the single digits 11 of the first 17 days of January, and tomorrow will make it 12 of the first 18 days. That's a truly remarkable start to the month. So it's little surprise that our temperatures are running almost nine degrees below normal for the month.
We've also been quite cold during the day. We only got to 16 degrees today, which helped the three or so inches of snow across the region stay put. Typically, a light and relatively dry snow will begin to melt from the roadways by the day after, but no real breaks in the clouds and the bitter cold prevented any improvements on untreated roadways today.
Tomorrow, though, the high temperature should climb several degrees above freezing, which will result in significant improvements to the roadways. The warming trend will continue into the weekend, when we'll see temps top out in the mid 50s.
What happens after that? Well, it looks like we'll finally see a sustained reprieve from the cold air. It won't be a significant warmup by any means. Temperatures may well be above normal for the rest of January as a whole (the U.S. government's Climate Prediction Center is forecasting above-normal temps for the Days 6-10 and 8-14 periods, as well as for the Weeks 3-4 period, which takes us through Feb. 9), but it isn't like we're going to see a "blowtorch" period, as some weather enthusiasts refer to it. Temps won't be abnormally warm; it's just that they likely won't be abnormally cold, either. According to this afternoon's run of the GFS forecast model, we'll struggle to get above 60 degrees for the rest of the month. But we'll also struggle to get below 20 degrees.
There's also no guarantee it won't snow any more this month, but it doesn't look likely at the moment. As of now, there are two storm signals progged for the remainder of the month — one on Monday, and one in the Jan. 26-29 time frame — and neither of them look like snow-makers.
So winter is over, right?
Don't count on it. Some long-range data shows another very cold pattern setting up as we get about a week into February. I wouldn't take that to the bank just yet, but it also wouldn't be unprecedented for a winter like this.
There is this caveat: the sun is already climbing higher in the sky, and will continue to do so as we move into February. After we leave January behind, it starts to get harder to get the really cold temps like we've experienced this month. It's harder for snow to stay on the ground for long periods of time, due to the higher sun angle.
But our coldest temps in nearly 30 years occurred near the end of February just a couple of years ago, when we plunged all the way to -11 in Oneida in the aftermath of an ice storm, and some of our biggest winter storms have occurred in February as well. At this point, I think it would be dangerous to think that winter is over. But a reprieve will be welcomed, even if we have to worry that it's only because Ol' Man Winter is reloading his gun.
Eye to the Sky is a weather blog by Independent Herald editor Ben Garrett. Garrett is a weather enthusiast who has long blogged about interesting weather on his personal website. He is not a professional forecaster or a meteorologist and information on this blog should not be considered a substitute for forecasts, advisories or other products from the National Weather Service.