The Alaskan Clipper, a bitter cold front that has thrust Alaska, Canada and some northern states into a deep freeze during recent days, may be clipped a bit as it moves into Utah.
"It doesn't look now like it will get as cold as we previously thought," William J. Alder, meteorologist in charge of the Salt Lake office of the National Weather Service, said Wednesday morning.While Utahns braced for the tail end of the cold front, residents of Alaska, Canada and a number of northern and northwestern states were trying to recover as record-cold arctic air trapped over Alaska finally broke loose and barreled into the lower 48 states.
Temperatures plunged by nearly 80 degrees in a day, with one town reporting a 23-degree drop in one minute. High winds preceding the cold front blew a toddler down a street in Lander, Wyo., but the youngster was not seriously hurt.
The storm, which has already dropped a few inches of snow in the Utah mountains and some other areas overnight, will hit most of the state by late Wednesday and early Thursday. Strong winds also barreled across some areas of northern Utah early Wednesday.
Earlier, sub-zero temperatures were forecast along the Wasatch Front. Alder said Wednesday that the mercury may drop to zero or 5 degrees above by the weekend, with highs hovering around 20.
Temperature levels in Utah will depend on clearing patterns. If the sky is very clear, then Utahns can expect colder temperatures, he said.
The complex storm, which spread arctic air across Montana, Wyoming, northern Idaho and east of the Cascades in Washington, dropped 3 inches of snow overnight at Brighton and Powder Mountain, 2 inches at Park City, Park West and Solitude, 1 inch at Snow Basin and traces at Snowbird and Alta ski resorts.
By 7 a.m. Wednesday, 3 to 4 inches of snow had fallen in Montpelier, Soda Springs and Malad, Idaho, and at Bear Lake. The Utah Highway Patrol said chains were required in Sardine Canyon.
Strong winds, ranging from 46 mph at the Salt Lake International Airport to 48 mph in Holladay and 25 mph at Hill Air Force Base, moved in ahead of storm. It was 45 degrees at the airport at about 1 a.m. Wednesday
By early Thursday, 2 to 3 inches of snow is expected in the valleys and about one foot in the mountains. Intermittent snow showers are expected Thursday and into the weekend.
The temperature will remain in the 40s most of Wednesday, then drop into the 30s by late Wednesday afternoon. High temperatures Thursday will be in the low 30s in most of northern Utah, while the mercury may drop to 30 in Cache Valley. St. George, which recorded a high of 62 Tuesday, will probably drop to the 40s by the weekend.
The frigid air, no longer trapped by a warm-air jet stream that had strayed farther north than usual and left record-high temperatures in 64 cities Tuesday, promised frigid weekend weather for the East Coast and as far south as Arkansas, the National Weather Service said.
"We're going to make up for the party we've been enjoying," said meteorologist Rick Brumer in Chicago.
The party ended quickly on Tuesday, as arctic air rushed into the balmy Northern Plains, including Nebraska, North Dakota and Wyoming, dropping temperatures to 10 to 20 below zero. High winds and blowing snow knocked out power in Washington state and parts of northwest Montana.
In a 24-hour period beginning Monday morning, temperatures fell 79 degrees at Great Falls, Mont., from 62 above to 17 below zero.
In Cut Bank, Mont., about 100 miles north of Helena, a Federal Aviation Administration official said the mercury plunged 23 degrees in one minute, and 103-mph winds dropped the wind chill to 75 below zero.