A March Madness unrelated to the much-anticipated annual college basketball tournament will greet Hastings residents this weekend, bringing potentially record-low high temperatures Saturday and Sunday in its wake.
Noting that nothing is a slam dunk when it comes to forecasting the weather, meteorologist Ryan Pfannkuch of the National Weather Service in Hastings said late Thursday afternoon that it is likely the below-normal weekend temperatures will shatter existing records for lowest high temperatures on record either one or both days. That would mean keeping the mercury below 15 degrees on Saturday — the record low high last tied in 1980 — and below 11 degrees on Sunday to top the current low high set in 2002.
Lows figure to fall to 3-6 degrees Friday night, zero to minus 3 Saturday, and minus 4 to minus 6 Sunday, with wind chills slipping into the minus 20 range throughout the weekend.
"We're not going to be close to that average of 40 degrees until at least the middle of next week, if not last next week," Pfannkuch said.
While the projected lows are nowhere near record-setting, Pfannkuch said the projected highs are easily 20-25 degrees below normal for this time of year.
"We're looking at probably one of the coldest starts to March on record," he said. "Not necessarily the coolest, but one of the coolest."
As for snowfall, residents can expect around 3 inches of accumulation "at various points" between Saturday and Sunday.
"Not all of that is going to fall in one neat 12-hour period," he said. "It'll be spread around — a little here, stops for a while, then comes back. Like that."
Though sustained 15 mph winds with gusts up to 20 mph from the northeast probably won't wreak too much havoc in terms of causing visibility issues with the falling flakes, Pfannkuch nevertheless advises to avoid unnecessary travel, if possible.
"If you run into snow obviously we're not talking huge amounts, but combined with the bitter cold, you don't want to get stranded anywhere you don't want to be," he said.
The silver lining in this frosty system is that it comes at a time when warmer weather is almost assuredly on the horizon, Pfannkuch said. Temperatures are expected to ascend into the 20s and 30s beginning Monday, with mid-40 readings expected as soon as Wednesday. From there, the tide figures to turn swiftly toward milder skies in the days ahead.
"We know this kind of thing can't last much longer," he said. "It's highly likely that we will not see temperatures like this again this winter. That's the positive news in all of this."