Frightfully cold temperatures have gripped northern Utah, as many discovered when they tried to start their cars Wednesday morning. Logan residents were stunned by a record low for this date, minus 26.
Logan should not expect toasty times soon. Cache Valley's high today will probably reach only to 5 or 10 degrees above zero. That is "as good as we're going to get," said Dave Toronto, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City.
"And then tonight we're expecting 5 to 10 below (in Logan), not as cold as last night." The improvement will be because insulating clouds should move in and keep heat from radiating out into space.
Meanwhile, at Middle Sink — an uninhabited region 30 miles east of Logan near the summit of Logan Canyon — a Utah State University meteorologist measured the third-lowest temperature ever recorded in Utah. As of 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, Middle Sink registered a teeth-chattering minus 62.
"It's good nobody lives there," Toronto said.
Salt Lake City's temperature Wednesday morning was minus 5, just one degree above the icy record set on this date in 1979.
"The last time Salt Lake City was below zero was almost six years ago, Feb. 4, 1996," he said. At that time, thermometers at Salt Lake City International Airport dropped to minus 2.
Other frigid spots were: Alta, minus 10, a record for the date; Grantsville, minus 1; Morgan, minus 12; Silver Lake, Brighton, minus 9; Wendover, minus 4; Dugway, minus 7; Randolph, Rich County, minus 37, a record; Bear Lake, minus 20, a record; Bryce Canyon National Park, minus 3; Cedar City, 7 degrees.
Why was it so cold?
The air mass aloft is icy to begin with. Winds are light or nonexistent. "Winds have a tendency to stir things up and keep them from getting too cold." Snow on the ground makes heat radiate fast, while a lack of a cloud cover lets the heat dissipate swiftly.
Partly cloudy skies may visit Salt Lake City on Wednesday night, Toronto said, "which should keep us up a little bit" in temperature.
Zane Stephens, a meteorologist with the Utah Climate Center at Utah State University, Logan, hiked half a mile from the road into Middle Sink, where the altitude is 7,510 feet. But he did not venture across a crest to Peter Sink, where the temperature probably was lower, because that would have been too dangerous with the deep recent snow and the chance of avalanche.
"(Minus 62 is) the third-coldest we've ever had here in Utah," Stephens said. "All the (lowest) temperatures, the top three, have been at the Sinks."
The lowest ever recorded was minus 69, measured at Peter Sink on Feb. 1, 1985.