The all-time coldest month in Buffalo sounds like one of the toughest weather records out there.
And, it will be held by February 2015 when the record books are rewritten this weekend, according to National Weather Service projections.
Weather service forecasts project an 81-year-old mark for cold – February 1934 – will shatter under this month’s string of subzero and record-cold temperatures.
“It’s very likely we could surpass this coldest month by a full degree, which is just amazing,” said David Thomas, meteorologist at the National Weather Service.
By 4 p.m. Tuesday, February’s average temperature – 11.1 degrees – was already pacing one-half degree colder than its 1934 counterpart.
With a forecast average of about 7.2 degrees over the month’s last five days, a new record is all but certain.
“Barring some unforeseen significant warm-up, we will have the coldest month on record,” Thomas said.
This February is also challenging a bunch of other long-held winter weather markers.
The entire month is likely to remain below freezing. The last time the thermometer rose above 32 degrees in Buffalo was Jan. 29. Forecasts show it won’t happen again until the middle of next week. Only once before has the entire month of February been frozen from beginning to end – in 1978.
The mercury is expected to dip below zero again Wednesday night – the ninth such day in February alone. Thursday night’s forecast calls for a tenth subzero day with a forecast low of minus 4 and Friday night could become the 11th time this month. Friday’s forecast low is wavering between minus 1 and zero.
The February record for days below zero is 10, set in 1979.
To put those figures into perspective, the temperature never dropped below zero for the entire years of 2012 or 2013 and last year – a winter with what many weather experts believe was the first pair of blizzards in the same season in the city’s history – it only happened six times the entire season, according to weather service records.
“The continued northwest flow of bitterly cold air has left the month of February a historic month that will be a benchmark for years to come,” according to Tuesday’s National Weather Service forecast discussion.
Another weather record fell late Monday when the low temperature hit 7 below at 8:22 p.m. That broke the 126-year-old record of minus 6.
And, it’s not just the cold:
• Another 2 to 3 inches of snow is forecast through the end of Thursday. On top of the 44.7 inches heading into Tuesday, that will boost the month closer to second on the all-time list of snowiest Februarys ever. First place is 1958 with 54.2 inches.
• Tuesday was the 50th day in a row there was measurable snow on the ground in Buffalo. That’s the most in a decade.
“It is unusual,” said Kirk Apffel, another weather service meteorologist. “We’ve had this pattern so long – essentially the entire month of February. We’ve had a very strong and persistent ridge on the west coast that’s given us almost direct access into some of the coldest air in the hemisphere.”
The stories of February’s damaging weather have been told all month:
• Exposure deaths, including a 47-year-old Niagara Falls woman and a Toronto toddler.
• Ruptured water lines like the one last week that chased hundreds of University at Buffalo students from their dormitory complex.
• Home and apartment fires caused by improper attempts to thaw household plumbing left dozens homeless and damage topping $1 million at a Orchard Park apartment complex.
That’s not to mention the endless dead car batteries, resulting in days of backlogged roadside assistance calls, traffic accidents from mountainous snow piles and icy roads, and frostbite and hypothermia injuries.
Meanwhile, the alternating pattern between snow and cold will be on display in both forms Wednesday – a couple more inches of snow, then a lot more cold through Saturday.
“It’s fairly similar to the types of systems we’ve seen several times this year,” Apffel said.
Snowshowers are expected to dissipate by about 8 a.m. Wednesday. Then, the mercury will plummet again behind the passing front, according to the forecast. West winds will make it feel like 5 below during the day. Wind chills are forecast to drop to 10 below by Wednesday night.
For those begging for hope, some is finally beginning to appear on the horizon. Early forecast models show at least some moderation in the weather during early March. Temperatures are expected to reach into the mid-20s on Sunday and start to flirt with the freezing mark early next week.
“More of the country is going to be below normal,” Apffel said. “It’ll still be below normal here – but it will not be as extreme.”
The early Global Forecast System models indicate above-freezing temperatures could return by the middle of next week for the first time since Jan. 29, along with a large and strong storm system.