CHAMPAIGN — East Central Illinois is enduring its first cold snap in 23 months as temperatures are forecast to remain below normal until Sunday.
Still, it could be much worse.
"With a fresh snow cover I'd estimate it could be 10 degrees colder, possibly," said National Weather Service meteorologist Kirk Huettl. "The last time we were below zero in Champaign-Urbana was in February 2011, a week after the Groundhog Day blizzard of 2011 (when 6 inches of snow fell). So we had a pretty good widespread snow cover, at least in central Illinois."
Monday's wind chill readings, which were below zero even at midday, were unusually biting. But temperature readings were 15 above at 3 p.m. and were forecast to drop no lower than 1 above zero on Tuesday morning. The record low for Jan. 22 is -17 in 1936.
Temperatures also are forecast to remain above zero through the week, probably preserving what Monday became 711 consecutive days with readings above zero. The local record is 1,071 days, set from Jan. 24, 1937, to Dec. 30, 1939.
"We can get below zero without any snow on the ground but it's harder to do," Huettl said.
Tuesday morning's forecast low temperature would be the lowest reading locally since it was -12 on Feb. 10, 2011.
Last winter's lowest reading was 4 degrees on Jan. 14, and this winter's previous low was 6 on Jan. 2.
So far this winter — defined as the months of December, January and February — temperatures are running about 6 degrees above normal. As recently as Saturday the local temperature at Willard Airport was 52 degrees, about 20 degrees above normal.
And they'll be back above normal by Monday, Huettl said.
"We actually warm up by Sunday, getting in to the low to mid 30s, and the low 40s by Monday," he said. "These cold snaps are short-lived and moderate because the snow has been passing to the north and south of us so far this season."