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Lawrence rings in New Year with subzero temps; wind chills at dangerous levels

Dangerously cold weather ushered in the new year in Lawrence.

At midnight the temperature in Lawrence was minus 3 with a wind chill of minus 15 — and kept dropping throughout the overnight hours, according to meteorologist Chad Omitt at the National Weather Service’s Topeka office.

Temperatures dipped to at least minus 9 with a wind chill of minus 24 around sunrise Monday morning, Omitt said.

Monday’s high is forecast to stay in the single digits, at just 9 degrees.

Lawrence and the surrounding counties remain in a wind chill warning set to expire at noon Monday. That means dangerously cold wind chills — from the combination of very cold air and the wind — are expected, from 5 below zero to 25 below zero, according to the weather service.

Such cold wind chills can cause frostbite to exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes, the weather service warns, and can even lead to hypothermia or death if precautions are not taken.

The weather service is downgrading the wind chill warning to a wind chill advisory, in effect from Monday evening through Tuesday morning.

After an overnight low of minus 4 degrees, Tuesday’s high is predicted to be 21 degrees, according to the weather service.

Cold will continue until later this week, with overnight lows in the single digits and highs in the lower 20s predicted for the next several days, according to the weather service. The temperature won’t get above freezing until Saturday, when the high is expected to be about 39 degrees.

The last time it was this cold in Lawrence on New Year’s Day was 2001, when the actual temperature dropped to minus 11, Omitt said.

While the weather service only has reliable data for Lawrence dating to mid-1996, Monday’s low of minus 9 doesn’t crack the top-10 for lowest temperatures since then, Omitt said. He said the coldest temperature on record for Lawrence is minus 19, on Jan. 28, 1997.

Contact public safety reporter Sara Shepherd

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