Feeling cold? Blame the polar vortex, breaking BR springtime lows

Advocate staff photo by ANGELA MAJOR -- A'ki Gordon, 5, wraps herself in a blanket as she leaves East Ascension's graduation ceremony Thursday, May 15, 2014, in Gonzales, La. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by ANGELA MAJOR -- A'ki Gordon, 5, wraps herself in a blanket as she leaves East Ascension's graduation ceremony Thursday, May 15, 2014, in Gonzales, La.

Thought January was the last time you’d hear about the “polar vortex?” Think again. The unusually cool weather that Baton Rouge experienced Thursday and Friday is the result of another cold air mass that descended from the far reaches of Canada all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico.

Although this polar vortex is not bringing with it ice storms, closed highways and treacherous driving, it is bringing record-breaking low springtime temperatures to the Baton Rouge area. Temperatures at Baton Rouge Metro Airport dipped to 50 degrees Thursday morning, breaking a May 15 low temperature record of 53 degrees set in 2011, said Barry Keim, state climatologist.

“This is polar vortex, spring version,” Keim said.

Similar to what Louisiana saw this winter, the cooler weather is thanks to cold air from up north dipping down through the continental United States. Statewide, temperatures Thursday ranged from 15 to 20 degrees below normal.

The cooler temperatures continued through Friday morning, with people waking up in Baton Rouge to 52 degrees, missing the previous May 16 low temperature record of 51 degrees set in 2006. That wasn’t as cold as expected. Forecasters thought it might have gotten down to 48 degrees Friday morning.

National Weather Service meteorologist Ken Graham suggested the high clouds or even a variance in the direction of the wind might have kept it from getting quite as cool as forecasted. “These little tiny subtle things can change the temperature a little bit,” he said.

“I’ve got to believe this is the last gasp of winter,” Keim said. “This is not unprecedented weather for this time of year, but it is unusual.”

The cold front that brought in sheets of rain of up to 4, 5 and even 6 inches over the weekend pushed through on Tuesday to usher in the colder, drier weather Baton Rouge is enjoying now.

Alas, it won’t last much longer. Temperatures in Baton Rouge and across south Louisiana will start rising Saturday, with lows by Sunday night expected at 62 degrees.

“We’ve had one of the coolest winters in a long time — a winter that doesn’t want to give up — but we are going to get reminded of the time of year real quick when we get into next week,” Graham said. “We are looking at upper 80s by midweek, and some locations we won’t be surprised to see get into the 90s.”

Follow Amy Wold on Twitter @awold10.