January 17, 1982 is remembered across the Midwest as the â??Cold Sunday.â?? The temperature hit 25 below zero at the National Weather Service (NWS) near Negaunee. It also hit 25 below in my hometown of Milwaukee. These record-low temperatures were at the high end of the western Great Lakes temperature spectrum. Iron Mountain registered 31 below and Ironwood crashed to 41 below zeroâ??an all-time record low at that location.
Tom Skilling of WGN-TV in Chicago calls this period from January 7-17 â??the benchmark cold spell of 1982.â?? During this time Chicago had 10 days with below zero readings. Four of those days were minus 19 or lower including Chicagoâ??s all-time record low of 26 below set on January 10, 1982.
I remember that day well. I was with a group of friends cross-country skiing in northwestern Wisconsin. We went up to ski, but it was so cold, we mostly stayed inside our ski lodge. Our car batteries were also inside because none of the cars would start in the brutal cold. A small contingent of braver souls decided to head out and do some skiing no matter how cold it was. We took off and a short time later, one of the skiers put some weight on one of his fiberglass poles and it shattered in the bitter cold. It was a short skiing excursion.
This period was the coldest stretch of the winter of 1981-82. Afterwards, temperatures, while generally below average, were more moderate.
Our recent moderate weather will end later this weekend. More cold air is expected to filter in on Sunday and it looks very cold next week. Daytime highs across most of the U.P. will likely stay in the single digits through at least mid-week. There still is a chance at a shot of extreme cold next weekend. The image above is the European computer model upper-air forecast for next Saturday evening. The coldest, deepest portion of the polar vortex is very near us. This would mean another shot of bitter cold similar to early in the month.