Record-setting cold temperatures put Pratt in the deep freeze

Jennifer Stultz
Pratt Tribune
Bundled up against the cold, Pratt resident Mike McFall walks his dog, Teddy, at Lemon Park on Monday. Early Monday morning temperatures dipped to -12F with wind chill warnings in the -20 to -30 degree range in Pratt. Tueday temps were similar.

Temperatures in Pratt dipped to -12 Fahrenheit early Monday, February 15, breaking an 85-year record for cold, according to Richard Lowe, meteorologist at U.S. Weather Service Dodge City. But for long-time Pratt resident Mike McFall, it was just another day to take his dog, Teddy, for a walk in the park. McFall, like most of Pratt, seemed to be taking the artic cold-snap in stride.

“We’ve walked a mile or so together here every day for the last seven years,” McFall said. “Counld’t miss today because of a little cold. When Teddy’s paws get cold I just pick him up and carry him a bit, brush off his paws and we keep going. He loves it out here.”

McFall said the cold weather this week was comparable to something like one might find in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and was probably the coldest he had ever experienced in Pratt, Kansas.

“I’ve never seen it this cold in the past 30 years,” McFall said. “We won’t be out here long today.”

Lowe, who was monitoring the weather from Dodge City, said he was previously in the Air Force forcasting weather in Alaska, then lived in Chicago for a few years before coming to Kansas just over three years ago.

“It’s colder in Kansas than both of those places today,” he said. “From Sunday into Monday we had temperatures in Kansas that were 10-20 degrees colder than Fairbanks, Alaska.”

Lowe said the recent artic blast was caused by a very strong jet stream that filtered extremely cold air down from Canada through a deep trough that went as far south as Brownsville, Texas and the Gulf Coast.

“This type of thing has happened before, but it’s been many, many years,” Lowe said.

While Pratt’s extreme temperature of -12F, recorded between 5:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. on Monday, February 15, was accompanied by a wind chill factor that made conditions feel like -39 at times, it was not the coldest recording in Kansas.

“Coldest temperature we could find from all our observing networks was -26 at a mesonet site in Hamilton County near the Arkansas river-bed, 6 miles west of Syracuse,” Lowe said.

He also said the Garden City airport recorded -20 early Monday, the coldest February temperature on record since the beginning of weather temperature recordings there in 1948.

Lowe said the extreme cold was likely to last through Tuesday, then temperatures would begin to warm up, pushing 50 degrees by Saturday.

“I think we’ve pretty much bottomed out already,” Lowe said. “We will be pushing back up to normal temperatures for this time of this year by mid-week.”

At the Pratt Municipal Power Plant, operator on duty Joseph Jones said that as of noon on Monday there had been a few calls into the water department for help needed because of frozen or leaking water lines.

“We really haven’t had too much trouble in town,” Jones said. “It seems that most people here know how to deal with cold weather and are keeping their homes warm, with faucets dripping as needed to prevent frozen pipes.”

The City of Pratt posted a special “Freezing Weather Tips for Your Water Service” bulletin on their website at cityofprattks.com, with a phone number to call in case of water emergencies, 620-672-3831.

“That number is for anyone in Pratt who is having trouble with their water pipes freezing or needs help shutting off their water inside the house,” Jones said.

Jones said signs of frozen water pipes could include low to no water pressure, water faucet handles not working properly or leaking pipes.

On Monday afternoon, the City of Pratt Fire Department responded to a frozen sprinkler alarm at Tractor Supply to fix an issue caused by the extreme temperatures.

However, the Pratt County 911 Dispatch office reported there were few weather-related calls that came in over the weekend. Local law enforcement officers were quick to respond to the usual calls such as a driver who ran out of gas and another driver who had a flat tire.

“Extended exposure to the elements is not good for anyone at this time,” said Pratt County Dispatch Director Walt Stockwell.

Via local dispatch, the U.S. National Weather Service at Dodge City issued a weather alert again on Monday to warn that wind chills of  -20 to -30 degrees were expected through mid-morning Tuesday.

Area schools were closed on Monday for Presidents Day and because of the cold wind warnings, and most closed again on Tuesday.

Not detered by the cold, McFall said he would be out walking Teddy (in his warm dog-sweater) as usual on Tuesday.

Any day is a good day for a walk at Pratt's Lemon Park, but only a few hardy souls ventured out Monday in the record-setting cold weather.