Freezing in Arizona? But it's a dry cold - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Freezing in Arizona? But it's a dry cold

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Posted: Wednesday, February 2, 2011 10:24 am | Updated: 1:34 am, Sun Mar 6, 2011.

The cold weather that meteorologists were talking about all week is here -- and it's supposed to stay cold for at least the next two days with areas around the Valley dipping to around 20 degrees.

But it's a dry cold, right? And it will be windy, too.

No cold temperature records were set, but parts of the East Valley saw freezing temperatures with Falcon Field in east Mesa dropping to 28 degrees and 30 mph winds thanks to a cold front that began blowing in from Canada on Tuesday, according to Craig Ellis, a meteorologist.

On Wednesday morning, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport recorded 33 degrees, slightly missing a record low of 29 set nearly 90 years ago, in 1922. Thursday's low temperature at Sky Harbor is forecast to be 30 degrees, two degrees higher than the low of 28 also set in 1922, Ellis said.

Tempe dipped to 32 degrees throughout early parts of Wednesday morning, and Chandler saw 34 degrees. Thompson Peak in north Scottsdale, which is about 4,000 feet in elevation, was 17 degrees and Carefree north of Phoenix was 23.

"It's pretty unusual for us to get this much Arctic air," Ellis said. "It's extremely dry, but very windy. Even though it's not going to be as cold the next two days as it was today, there's still freeze warnings in effect for Thursday and Friday."

Peak winds reached 40 mph throughout parts of the west Valley.

Freeze warnings will last until 10 a.m. Thursday and Friday as Valley residents are advised to cover up their plants, keep their pets inside and possibly cover water pipes.

Winter residents who dine at the Iowa Cafe in east Mesa often say they feel like they're back home when they eat there, but on Wednesday, they weren't complaining they were here instead of the blizzard-bound Midwest.

Jim Allison and his wife, Margaret, are from Spearfish, S.D., and for the last 14 years, they've spent winters in Arizona. On Wednesday, they were enjoying their lunch at the Iowa Cafe, thankful they were far removed from their hometown where a low of minus-22 and a high of zero was expected for Wednesday.

"All I can say is it can be a helluva lot worse," Jim Allison said of the Valley's cold spell. "We're not complaining. This is a little chilly, but it wouldn't be so cold if it wasn't windy. We're enjoying it here. We enjoy it every year we come out. We're glad we're here."

Wednesday's high temperature is expected to be 48, but there's a possibility that it may not even reach that, Ellis said. The "lowest" high temperature was set in 1985 when it was 49, and there's a good chance that a new record could be set.

Thursday's high temperature is expected to be 51 with a low of 32

SRP workers are looking into whether the cause of two coal fire plants going offline about 6:20 a.m. was due to the cold weather, knocking out power to customers all over the Valley, according to Patty Garcia-Likens, an SRP spokeswoman. One power station in Springerville, and another one in Page went offline, initially cutting off power to 65,000 customers in the Valley, Garcia-Likens said.

"We did not have enough power to serve all of our customers," Garcia-Likens said.

At 6:34 a.m., 43,000 customers were without power, and about 10 minutes later, that number dropped to 22,000 customers.

All SRP customers were back online about 6:55 a.m., Garcia-Likens said.

There were no reported outages or rolling blackouts with APS customers throughout the Valley, according to Steven Gotfried, an APS spokesman.

As the temperatures started to dip Tuesday night, the number of people gathering early for dinner at Mesa's Paz de Cristo kitchen increased threefold, said Terra Masias, fundraising/marketing director.

The group served 211 free meals, about normal, Masias said. But more people showed up early to find a place to stay warm.

"Last night everybody was talking about how cold it was. There were more requests for jackets, blankets, gloves, any kind of winter gear," Masias said. "We serve hot chocolate and coffee at dinner. We usually have leftovers. We were totally out last night."

Masias said the requests for winter gear were filled thanks to a large donation made during the holidays, but the group could use men's undergarments as well as cash donations.

"We know many people are skipping meals in order to pay for heat," she said, noting the same event happens in summer when people pay air-conditioning bills. "We know we're helping them by giving them food."

By the weekend, temperatures should be reaching back into the 60s.

"That is what we're used to seeing this time of year," Ellis said.

Tribune writer Michelle Reese contributed to this report.

 

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