Some relief in sight from record-breaking cold

Highs could reach into 30s by Sunday after multiple days with highs below zero

Water vapor rises from the Cedar River during the morning commute in Cedar Rapids early Tuesday morning, Jan. 2, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Blame Canada.

For the third day in a row — Dec. 31, Jan. 1 and Jan. 2 — Cedar Rapids broke the previous record low temperature for that day. National Weather Service meteorologist said Tim Gross Cedar Rapids logged low temperatures of -22 degrees on Sunday, -19 on Monday and -23 on Tuesday. The previous lows for those days were -19, -14 and -19 degrees, respectively. The previous records all date back to the 1970s.

The culprit for the bitter cold is a large arctic high pressure system that originated in northern Canada that moved south into the Midwest and maintained its frigid air thanks to the snowpack up north, as well as in the Midwest. Snow and calm winds conspired to keep the temperatures low, Gross said.

But, some warmth is in the future. Relatively speaking.

“There is some relief in sight, believe it or not,” Gross said.

Temperatures are forecast to reach the single digits each day through the end of the workweek. By Saturday should reach temperatures in the middle to upper teens and there are upper 20s or low 30s in the forecast for Sunday. Gross said the only hiccup will be Thursday morning, during which temperatures will plummet to around -10 degrees, with a wind chill of — 20.

The bitterly cold start to 2018 has caused issues for residents. P.J. Kalb, residential sales manager for Colony Heating & Air Conditioning kept workers busy on Saturday and Sunday.

“They ran over 300 calls over the weekend,” Kalb said.

While furnaces are made for an average Iowa winter, the arctic-like conditions this week have been taxing, particularly on furnaces that are not running at peak condition, Kalb said. He said dirty air filters can cause a furnace to overheat and shut down. Furnaces that are 15-18 years old are also getting to the end of their life span, Kalb said.

In addition to keeping an eye on their air filters, Kalb advised residents to keep their thermostats set to one temperature throughout the day, noting that it can take a long time to heat back up when it’s this cold.

“They’re better off just running that like a regular thermostat,” he said.

Weather is also being blamed for a 14-vehicle crash on Interstate 380 Tuesday morning.

Cedar Rapids public safety spokesman Greg Buelow said police and firefighters were called to Interstate 380 southbound at Seventh Street at 6:45 a.m. Officials believe a vehicle lost control on the frost-covered roadway and caused a chain reaction as other motorists tried to stop or avoid other vehicles. Buelow said two people were taken to a hospital for minor injuries and traffic was rerouted for about two hours.

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