The bitterly cold temperatures that have hovered over the Texas Panhandle for days have started moving out of the area, making way for temperatures that could reach the 60s in western parts of the region by Friday.
It will be a welcome warming trend for many who were exposed to temperatures that dropped to zero with wind chills reaching as low as negative 14 degrees in some areas.
“The entire Panhandle should be above freezing by (today),” said Dr. Stephen Bieda, science and operations officer for the National Weather Service in Amarillo. “It will be a nice recovery from what has been some very cold temperatures during this Arctic outbreak.”
Temperatures rose slightly after a Christmas weekend cold spell — during which lows hit 12 degrees — but then began dropping even lower starting Saturday.
In Amarillo, the temperatures hit 16 on Saturday, then 8 on New Year’s Eve before hitting a low of 4 degrees at 7:09 a.m. Monday, Bieda said.
Boys Ranch and Guymon, Okla., each saw zero on their thermometers Monday and Pampa dipped to 2 degrees.
The temperatures experienced around the region were accompanied by wind chills ranging from 5 below to 14 below, Bieda said.
Wind chill is calculated using air temperature and wind speed and is intended to indicate what the temperature feels like on a person’s face after the wind blows away a cushion of body heat emanating from his or her skin.
Those in the elements New Year’s Day risked frostbite or hypothermia after just 30 minutes of exposure, Bieda said.
To help combat the dangerous elements, the Guyon Saunders Resource Center’s Code Blue Warming Station has been open 24/7 at 200 S. Tyler St.
Dangerously low temperatures have also caused the use of similar warming stations across the south, where freeze watches and warnings blanketed the region — including hard freeze warnings for much of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama on Tuesday
Temperatures fell to 8 degrees near Cullman, Alab., and Georgia saw one of its coldest temperatures of the winter: 2 degrees shortly before dawn at a U.S. Forest Service weather station at Toccoa, Ga.
Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle saw light snow throughout the holiday weekend, conditions that also reached as far south as Austin.
The freeze also caused icy roads across much of the state, and the Abilene police chief said more than three dozen vehicle crashes were reported in 24 hours.
Nationwide, the temperatures have been blamed for at least nine deaths this past week.
Police in St. Louis said a homeless man found dead inside a trash bin Monday evening apparently froze to death as the temperature dropped to negative 6 degrees there. Sheriff’s officials in Fond du Lac County, Wis., said a 27-year-old woman whose body was found Monday evening on the shore of Lake Winnebago likely died of exposure.
The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office said two men whose bodies were found Sunday showed signs of hypothermia. Police believe the cold weather also may have been a factor in the death of a man in Bismarck, N.D., whose body was found near a river.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.