UNION COUNTY — The residents of Union County woke this morning to temperatures in the single digits caused by an arctic air mass that broke records throughout the western Carolinas.
Just before 7:30 this morning the thermostat in the electronic message board outside the Union County Advanced Technology Center stood at 7 degrees. The temperature was 25 degrees lower than the normal low temperature of 32 degrees. Temperatures were forecast to remain below freezing throughout today, reaching no higher than the upper 20s or nearly 30 degrees below the normal high of the lower 50s.
The abnormally low temperature is due to an arctic air mass pulled down from Canada by a front that passed through the western Carolinas at the beginning of this week. The arctic mass has settled in over the western Carolinas and is expected to remain in place before temperatures begin gradually warming up to their normal levels later this week.
In addition to bringing unusually frigid weather to Union County, the cold brought by the arctic mass broke low temperature records that had stood for more than a century in the western Carolinas.
“We broke record lows in Asheville, Charlotte, and at the Greenville-Spartanburg Airport,” Neil Dixon, Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Greer, said this morning. “Asheville this morning observed 1 degree below zero. The previous record was 3 degrees and that was set in 1879. That was one of our longest standing records and it was broken today. That record had been in existence for 135 years.
“Charlotte observed 6 degrees and that shattered the old record of 12 degrees set in 1884,” he said. “We (Greenville-Spartanburg Airport) observed 5 degrees and that broke our old record of 9 degrees set in 1904.”
Dixon said that while temperatures will gradually rise beginning Wednesday, the arctic air mass will remain place through Thursday, bringing the county nearly two days of below freezing temperatures.
“Our temperatures will gradually moderate, but today will reach only the upper 20s, so we’ll have another cold night tonight with most areas of Union County being 14 degrees,” Dixon said. “The issue here is the prolonged period of below freezing temperatures. So if you count the hours from where we went below freezing Monday afternoon to when we rise above freezing Wednesday afternoon it should be 40 straight hours of below freezing temperatures.”
Dixon said the prolonged period of below freezing temperatures can be dangerous for outdoor pets and livestock, not only from the cold itself but from lack of access to water.
“The primary concern is the impact of those temperatures on outdoor pets and livestock,” Dixon said. “It can freeze their water source, be it a bowl, a pond, or a trough, it’ll be frozen or at least ice-covered. Forty hours is a long time to go without water.”
Dixon said people with outdoor pets and/or livestock should ensure their animals have access to water, either by breaking the ice on their water source or providing them with fresh water.
The cold weather is also a threat to humans, especially those who lack sufficient heat or insulation. Dixon said that if someone has a neighbor who lacks these things they should, if possible, provide them with a heater. He also urged the public to check on elderly neighbors who may be at risk from the cold weather.