The new year is bringing cold, arctic temperatures to the Chattanooga area with highs barely creeping above freezing if at all for the next week.
The wind chill index is expected to drop down to single digits in the city and below zero in higher elevations, like Altamont, and to the north in towns like Dayton and Athens.
In fact, the National Weather Service issued a wind chill advisory until noon today for Sequatchie, Bledsoe, Marion, East Polk and Grundy counties in Tennessee and Dade, Walker, Catoosa, Whitfield, Murray, Fannin and Gilmer counties in Georgia.
While Hamilton and Bradley counties aren't on the advisory list, WRCB weekend meteorologist Nick Austin said people in those areas should also use caution when going outside, as the wind chill will be dangerously low.
"Just going out and walking your dog for 10 minutes," he said. "Folks need to layer up, put on gloves, put on a hat that covers your ears just cover as much of yourself as you can."
Making sure to dress properly is critical because the risk for frostbite increases as air temperatures fall below 5 degrees, even with low wind speeds, according to the Mayo Clinic. A wind chill of negative 16 degrees can cause frostbite in less than 30 minutes.
But despite the colder temperatures, the chance of snow is slim to none. National Weather Service meteorologist Derek Eisentrout said the air will mostly be dry.
"With cold temperatures, that wind direction is constantly coming from the north," Eisentrout said. "When that happens around here it's just very, very dry. We really need to start having a flow come out of the south, pulling Gulf moisture in or being pulled from the east, from the Atlantic, to get decent moisture in."
Seeing a few flurries here and there won't be out of the questions, though, he said, "just because it doesn't take hardly any moisture to do something like that."
The dip in temperatures is brought by an arctic air mass that is moving out of Canada and over the plains of the central and eastern United States, Eisentrout said. Highs will remain below freezing for most of the week, inching up to around 37 degrees on Wednesday before another shot of cold air comes in late Wednesday, dropping temperatures back down to the teens and 20s.
Warmer temperatures won't be back around until around Jan. 7, when highs will bump back up to the mid-40s and bring a chance of rain.
The unusually cold temperatures are 15-20 degrees below normal, but they're not record-setting, Eisentrout said. The coldest New Year's day on record was in 1928, when lows dipped down to 2 degrees. All coldest records for the first three days of the year were set that year, at 2, zero and 8 degrees. By contrast, the warmest New Years day was 77 degrees in 1952.
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