Prolonged deep freeze blasts Metro Detroit

Traffic control officer Richard Graham braves the snow and cold to  direct traffic at the corner of Randolph and W. Larned as snow falls in Detroit.

Mother Nature has saved her coldest temperatures for the end of the year. And while Tuesday blasted through with a low of 3 degrees, Wednesday is already off to an even colder start.

The deep freeze is due to an arctic air mass that's hanging over the region and chilling Metro Detroiters to the bone.

“It’s going to stay that way through New Year’s,” Sarah Pampreen, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in White Lake Township, said Tuesday. “Highs will only be in the teens.”

Wednesday's temperatures are expected to peak near 12 degrees and, as the morning began, were recorded as minus 1 degree at Detroit Metro Airport in Romulus, said National Weather Service meteorologist Trent Frey.

The average temperature Tuesday was 8 degrees, making it the coldest overall day of 2017 to that point, said Frey.

The National Weather Service issued a wind chill advisory for Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties that continues through 7 a.m. Wednesday. The weather service also predicts subzero wind chills for the next few days.

December temperatures typically reach highs of about 36 degrees and fall to a low of about 24 degrees.

The temperature on the coldest Dec. 27 was minus 4 degrees in 1925, Pampreen said. Dec. 28’s coldest temperature was also minus 4 degrees, a record set in 1924. 

The frigid temperatures didn’t deter several dozen ice skaters from enjoying the rink in Detroit’s Campus Martius Park Tuesday night. 

Brownstown Township resident Jennifer Butler snapped photos and cheered on her daughter, Adrienne, who came to skate with a group of friends in celebration of her 13th birthday. 

NOAA says these "cloud streets" over the #GreatLakes, seen by the #SuomiNPP satellite's #VIIRS instrument, are what's behind the heavy lake effect snow hitting parts of Pennsylvania, upstate New York and Michigan.

“We prepared, and we told the girls ‘wear multiple layers’,” said Butler, 43, noting they didn’t want to skip the outing that had been planned for about a month. 

“We have hand warmers and toe warmers and hats and gloves. If we need to step into a tent to warm up a little bit, we will do that. But it’s December in Michigan, what else are we going to do?”

In addition to this week’s cold snap, Pampreen said Metro Detroit has seen more snowfall this December than it usually does.

“Through Dec. 26, we’re at 19.7 inches of snow,” she said. “Normally, we see 7.3 inches of snow through the date.” 

The amount of snowfall through December is 12.4 inches more than usual, or a 170 percent increase from the 7.3 inches the region typically sees for the month.

According to the weather service, the 19.7 inches of snow leaves this month is just shy of the 10th and 11th snowiest Decembers in southeast Michigan; 19.8 inches of snow fell in both 2005 and 1975.

Meanwhile, authorities are warning Michigan residents to take precautions during the current spell of extreme cold.

“These arctic blasts can create hazardous situations,” Michigan State Police Capt. Chris Kelenske said Tuesday in a statement. “Residents are encouraged to monitor local weather reports and follow the appropriate steps to stay safe during these extremely cold and potentially life-threatening temperatures.”

Kelenske is also deputy state director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

He and the agency recommend people should: 

  • Stay indoors when possible and wearing hats, gloves and warm coats when going outdoors.
  • Avoid overexertion when shoveling heavy snow, pushing a car or walking in deep snow.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite, which include the loss of feeling or pale appearance of fingers, toes or the face.
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia, which include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, drowsiness and exhaustion.
  • Remove any damp or wet clothing, which can increase the chances of hypothermia.
  • Watch pets closely and keep them indoors when possible.
  • Check furnaces and heating units to make sure they're not releasing carbon monoxide.

Extended forecast

Thursday: Partly sunny with a high near 15 degrees and a low of about 9 degrees. There's a chance of snow showers after 1 p.m.

Friday: Mostly cloudy with a high near 18 degrees and a low of about 10 degrees. There's a chance of snow showers after 1 a.m.

Saturday: Mostly cloudy with a high near 17 degrees and a low of about 5 degrees.

Sunday: Partly sunny with a high near 13 degrees and a low of about 5 degrees.

Monday: New Year's Day is expected to be mostly cloudy with a high near 14 degrees.

Source: National Weather Service