At the beginning of December, “Chinook winds” brought unsettlingly warm weather — including a high of 71 degrees in Winthrop — to the Methow Valley.
This week, a different kind of wind has brought what the National Weather Service (NWS) is calling “dangerously” cold conditions.
“With the extreme cold … frostbite and hypothermia will occur much faster,” the NWS reported in a special weather statement for much of North Central Washington. “If outdoors, remember to dress in layers and cover exposed skin. Unprotected pipes will be susceptible to freezing and bursting. Take precautions to protect pets and livestock from extreme cold.”
Other areas in Okanogan County, including Omak, Nespelem and Okanogan, were under a wind chill warning from the NWS through Monday, which predicted wind chill values as low as 25 degrees below zero.
“The dangerously cold wind chills could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 20 minutes,” according to the NWS warning.
The Methow Valley was spared much of the windy conditions predicted early this week. While Winthrop was expected to see wind gusts of 10 to 15 miles per hour, Omak was predicted to get 40- to 45-mile-per-hour gusts.
According to the NWS, an “arctic air mass” moving through Washington brought snow to the west side of the mountains and bitter cold to the east.
“What we’re looking at is a bunch of cold air. It’s not that uncommon to get these arctic air masses in this time of year,” said Ken Daniel, a meteorologist at NWS’ Spokane office.
Wind chill advisories were scheduled to expire Monday afternoon, but cold weather was predicted to stick around.
“We’ll be looking at some of the coldest temperatures of the season and at least for two to three years in some spots,” he said. “It looks to continue through Saturday or so.”
In much of the Methow Valley, low temperatures through Wednesday were forecasted below zero, with highs in the low to mid teens. Snow could reappear Thursday, and Friday could bring sun and a comparatively balmy high temperature of 19 to 20 degrees.
Sunday night into Monday morning, Twisp hit its coldest wind chill, at -15 degrees, thanks to 18 mph wind gusts, according to the National Weather Service, and a low of -8. The same night, Winthrop and Mazama each recorded a windchill of -20 degrees and low temperature of -11.
According to the National Weather Service, the coldest daily high temperature recorded in Winthrop is -21 degrees in 1968, with the coldest low temperature at -48 the same year.
The last time the low temperature was below -5 degrees F was in 2019.