BY MICHAEL WALTON
TRAVERSE CITY —
A pocket of arctic air shuttled frigid temperatures to the region after a mild start to winter in 2013.
The pocket originated over the North Pole and northern Canada before a shift in jet stream conditions allowed it to swing south to the Great Lakes region, National Weather Service Meteorologist Nick Schwartz said.
"It's a type of cold air we certainly haven't seen yet this winter," he said.
High temperatures today in Traverse City will struggle to reach 7 degrees as the core of the cold air system descends from the north. Forecasts predict overnight lows will reach zero, with wind chills throughout today and tonight reaching 10- to 15-below zero.
Yesterday's temperatures measured slightly higher. Daytime lows reached about 10 degrees.
Traverse City's record-low for Jan. 21 occurred in 1984, when temperatures bottomed out at an icy minus-20, Schwartz said.
Traverse City resident Cathy Olson and her daughter Taylor bemoaned the frosty turn as they shopped along Front Street.
"It's gotten so bad," Taylor Olson, a Central Michigan University student, said as she and her mother stepped out of the cold and into the breezeway of Horizon Books.
The two originally planned to stop in a nearby shoe store, but the chill made them second-guess the short walk down the street.
"It's two blocks and we are thinking about not going," Cathy Olson said.
Some residents welcomed the cold weather.
Nick Reszka, a barista at Morsels, said he cherishes northern Michigan's temperatures after having lived in Florida for four years. Reszka described his former state's climate as "hellacious."
"I'm a fan of this crisp, dry air," he said. "'Michigan air' is what Floridians call it."
Forecasts predict lake-effect snowfall accompanying the low temperatures as the arctic air runs over warmer air above Lake Michigan. Between three and six inches of snow should fall today, followed by an additional two to four inches tonight.
"The lake-effect snow machine will be up and running," Schwartz said.
A lake-effect snow advisory is in place through tonight.
Adam M. Orth, president of the outdoor service company AMO Inc., welcomed the expected snow accumulation and the prospect of more business for his snow plows.
Orth said an average winter contains about 30 days when his plowing services are in demand. The 2007-08 winter was a particularly good year with 40 to 45 days of plow-worthy weather, but every year since then has seen less than 30 days.
"I'm hoping at least for an average year or maybe above-average to make up for the last few," he said.
This week should help Orth's bottom line, but he admitted it is hard to predict when and where lake-effect snow will fall.
"One side of town there is only an inch or two," he said. "Five or 10 miles down the road we have 12 inches ... It's either feast or famine type situation."