Get set for frigid temps

Mail carrier Emily Tejada walks through the cold to deliver mail to homes along 16th Street Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022 in Odessa. (Odessa American File Photo)

Frigid weather is set to converge on the Odessa-Midland area this weekend with wind chills as low as 5 degrees below zero on Monday.

National Weather Service forecaster Rick Hluchan said Thursday an Arctic front is likely due to arrive late Saturday.

“The polar vortex is going to basically move further south than it usually is into Southern Canada, into the Great Lakes. What that typically does is release a lot of cold air into the lower 48. That’s kind of already begun, so to our north up into the Dakotas right now it’s already below zero,” said Hluchan (pronounced Lewhon).

He explained that a polar vortex is always there, but it’s typically contained over the North Pole, so the cold air typically stays up there.

“What happens is when you get fluctuations (in) the jet stream, it is able to pull this cold air further south and so it, in a way, disrupts the polar vortex. That’s what we’re seeing now. The jet stream is going to dive into the United States and bring that cold air south all the way to the Gulf of Mexico and engulf much of the country in temperatures 20 to 40 degrees below normal for a few days here,” Hluchan said.

“We are going to see a front tonight (Jan. 11) behind a strong storm system that’s moving across today (Jan. 11), so we’re going to have high winds today across a lot of the area and then again tonight with the passage of the front, so a lot of blowing dust. Winds here locally, Midland-Odessa, we’re talking 30 to 45 mph, gusts over 50 likely tonight,” he added.

An American flag blows in the wind while holding on by only one swivel snap Monday, Mar. 3, 2021, in Odessa. (Odessa American File Photo)

Behind that front, it’s going to get chilly Friday.

“But that’s not the coldest air. We’ll actually warm up briefly on Saturday. We’ve got high temperatures on Saturday around 55 to 60 degrees here and then very quickly by that evening we will be dropping into the 30s and 20s. … Likely on Sunday, we will wake up with temperatures in the teens and 20s, windchills below zero and not get above freezing on Sunday or Monday for that matter. Monday morning likely to see windchills … around 5 degrees below zero; temperatures in the single digits and teens,” Hluchan said.

“It’s going to be a shock to the system considering it’s been a fairly warm winter so far,” he added.

The National Weather Service in Midland is not expecting any precipitation with this front.

“It looks dry. If we see any precipitation with this system it looks to be well to our east and north. The Panhandle could see some snow and they could see some very light ice or snow over parts of East Texas, but, no, here we should remain dry,” Hluchan said.

He said you won’t see the precipitation across the state and it’s going to be very light where it does fall over East Texas.

“However, it’s still going to be cold enough where I’ve already seen ERCOT and different websites showing there still could be power outages, rolling blackouts, to help deal with the increased energy usage that’s going to occur. But the good thing, again, with us not seeing precip we’re going to see a lot of wind so you’re going to keep the wind turbines rolling, something that didn’t occur back in 2021,” Hluchan said.

Solar farms will also be available because the outlook is not supposed to be cloudy and snow covered this time.

He added that the NWS has gotten a lot of calls about Winter Storm Uri from February 2021 because people are worried that the snow, ice and lost electricity could be part of this storm as well.

“That still seems to be fresh on everybody’s mind. This is by no means the same situation. We are going to spend some time below freezing, but we should have sun and clouds. We’re not going to see that ice and snow that we saw. We also spent nine days below freezing during that event and we are only expecting about two days below freezing (this time). We should warm back above freezing on Tuesday,” Hluchan said.

David Burlington, right, handles a small rainbow trout to remove a hook while fishing with his 3-year-old dog Maria and friend Roy Autry Monday, Mar. 3, 2021, at Comanche Trail Park. (Odessa American File Photo)

The high on Jan. 16 should be in the mid-30s, just above freezing. Temperatures could possibly get into the 40s and 50s by Jan. 17 before the possibility of cooler air later that week. Hluchan said it won’t be as frigid as the weather moving in this weekend.

“This big push that we’re going to see Sunday into Monday is going to be the coldest air we’ve seen … since last Christmas. … Just before Christmas, we had two mornings where we hit 10 degrees here at the airport so this is going to be the coldest since then. … The air mass after that is going to be more modified, so we’re expecting maybe highs back into the 30s and 40s, but not below freezing at this time,” Hluchan said.

“Another big reason the air is so cold is we currently have snow on the ground from just north of Amarillo all the way to the North Pole. As that cold air moves over the snowpack, it doesn’t modify, meaning it doesn’t warm up like it typically would. Because of that, the cold air is able to maintain itself and then the storm system that I mentioned earlier today is going to put down more snow across the Panhandle and the Plains, so the snow’s only going to get deeper up there over the next 24 hours. That, again, is … really going to help maintain that cold air mass as it makes its way south,” he added.

Hluchan said the weather typically doesn’t get into patterns like this, but once every few years when it gets this cold it can happen multiple times a winter. But it’s still rare.

Looking ahead, Hluchan said it’s possible things may warm up a little bit through the end of January, but there could be another cold outbreak in February.

The storm system that’s coming through Jan. 11 is going to drop anywhere from 6 to 12 inches of snow from Kansas to Chicago.

“So the Central Plains into the Mississippi River Valley, they’re going to get a really good bit of snow and then another storm system will come with cold air Sunday into Monday and bring another round of snow, probably 6-10 inches possibly from Central and Eastern Oklahoma through Arkansas, Missouri and then that storm system is going to move into the Northeast,” Hulchan said.

He noted that this isn’t something normally seen during El Nino, but there are other factors going into why the cold air is coming down.

“(It) has to do with a bunch of different oceanic oscillations across the world, but it’s basically deviating from the El Nino pattern that we typically see … It has occurred before, but it’s still rare that we would see this cold of air coming down during an El Nino,” Hluchan said.

Salvation Army of Odessa’s Major Luis Melendez inspects beds in the men’s dormitory of the Mabee Red Shield Lodge Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, in Odessa. (Odessa American File Photo)

Beginning Jan. 15 at 7 a.m., the Ector County Sheriff’s Office West Annex at 2265 W. Sycamore Ave. will be open for those who need to stay warm. Right now, the plan is to keep the building available for two days, but that could change, Ector County Sheriff Mike Griffis said in a text.

The Salvation Army shelter at 811 E. 10th St., will be open seven days a week — Sunday to Saturday. The shelter will open at 5 p.m. for the community meal. People don’t have to stay at the shelter to get the meal. After that meal hour, at about 6 p.m. is when the shelter technically opens for people who want to stay, Capt. Justin Vincent said.

People will be able to stay in the shelter from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. the next morning.

Jesus House provides breakfasts and lunches Monday through Thursday and Executive Director Donnie Kiker said they provide any extra food to the Salvation Army for meals.

Vincent said they will also provide a warming station from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at 810 E. 11th St. in the gym. It is not open on weekends.

The Salvation Army holds church services at 11 a.m. on Sundays.

During regular office hours, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday they will have coats and jackets available through Channel 7’s Tom’s Coats drive.