After a springtime interlude, winter returns

Jan. 14, 2013 @ 04:20 PM

Put the shorts and the T-shirts back in the closet. Get the sweaters and the scarves out.

After a balmy weekend of spring-like weather, we’re back in January.

A strong cold front headed this way from the Blue Ridge Mountains will make today more than 20 degrees chillier than it has been. After high temperatures in the mid-70s, look for a high this afternoon in the it’s-definitely-not-May-anymore 45-degree range.

Combine that with a strong, cool wind from the northeast, and it’s going to feel even cooler.

“That front has some very cold air behind it,” said Mike Strickler, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Raleigh. “It’s caused single-digit temperatures in the Midwest and while we won’t have temperatures of that magnitude around here, it’s going to be a lot cooler than it has been.”

Those warmer temperatures we had almost set records. Saturday the mercury hit 71 degrees — just short of the high-water mark of 76, set in 1890 — and Sunday was even warmer, 75 degrees, three degrees shy of 2005’s 78.

But while those days might have felt out of the ordinary for mid-January, Strickler said, in fact, they weren’t that unusual.

“Typically, we’ll get some days this month where we’ll have the so-called ‘January thaw,’” he said. “It’s not terribly unique when you get one of those Bermuda highs, a sub-tropical high pressure system sitting off the North Carolina coast, near Bermuda. That brings the warm air.”

But that’s now gone and what we have is much more typical of the season, when the average high temperature is supposed to be in the low 50s. And those kind of readings could seem almost toasty by comparison with the middle of next week, when the long-range forecast calls for not cool, but downright cold temperatures.

That means possibly highs not even reaching the freezing mark and overnight lows well below freezing.

“There’s an arctic high-pressure system coming out of western Canada and it’s going to be oozing eastward, toward the mid-Atlantic states,” Strickler said. “That could open the floodgates to much colder weather. It definitely looks pretty chilly.”