The front page of yesterday's Quad City Times says it all - we're hunkering down in the Quad Cities. This winter has just been brutal. Our average mean temperature has been over 10 degrees cooler since December 1. We've been hit with not one, but two polar vortex outbreaks. The second one in less than a month began on Sunday night.
Right now as I write, it's -12 F (-26 C) in the Quad Cities. It's isn't quite as cold as some were forecasting for overnight (-17 F), but the saving grace is that there is no wind this morning. No wind - no wind chill. They aren't as lucky up toward Dubuque this morning with wind chill temperatures hovering around -40 F (which, coincidentally is also -40 C).
The last prolonged outbreak of cold weather that I can remember was 18 years ago when I believe the temperature didn't climb above 0 F (-18 C) for about five days. During that streak of cold temperatures, the Quad Cities realized their lowest all-time temperature of -29 F (-34 C). That was - by far - the coldest air I've ever lived through. But as I've always said, - 29 F or - 9 F, it's still damn cold.
We've had a lot of snow this winter and with temperatures consistently under freezing (and it appears to be that way for the next 10 days) it doesn't look like we'll be getting rid of it anytime soon. We keep getting these "Alberta Clipper" systems coming out of west central Canada that lay down 1 to 3 inches (2.5 cm to 8 cm) of snow. It snowed on Friday night, it snowed again on Saturday night and then the frigid front came through on Sunday evening with even more snow and gusts of wind up to 59 mph (95 kph) causing blizzard conditions. We're not getting a lot of snow with each system, but an inch or two here and there with sub-freezing temperatures makes it pile up quickly. We're expecting another clipper system to move through on Thursday dropping another 1 to 3 inches on the area with a more significant snowstorm on the horizon early next week.
The one saving grace with all the snow is that it's helping insulate our rose bushes and other annual plants against the biting cold. I didn't mulch the rose bushes before winter this year - we already had a good layer of mulch on the rose beds before the winter outbreak and most of the rose bushes are mature enough to be able to handle most winters. But this one has been especially brutal and I'm a little worried we may lose some plants and rose bushes.
I was lucky with the first Arctic outbreak in early January - I was in Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show. It was well below 0 F for about three nights in a row. When I got home on January 11, I brought warm weather with me from the west. It was the first above freezing temperatures the Quad Cities had seen in over a week.
With about seven more weeks of winter on the calendar, I'm ready for days like this - warm days, blue skies, green vegetation, rose buds. Two years ago, the winter was so mild we were experiencing 60 degree temps (15 C) at this same time. We even had buds on our rose bushes coming out in March. We were worried that we'd get a hard freeze and ruin some of the roses before they bloomed, but it never came. We had roses in mid-April, a full six weeks before they normally come in late May. I remember thinking at the time, "Boy, if this would be as bad as it would get around here, this would be perfect!"
Unfortunately, this winter has literally slapped us back to reality.