- Frigid temperatures ushered in by this week's polar vortex this week will make a quick exit out of the area Saturday, forecasters said.
A polar vortex is a large area of low pressure and cold air that usually stays near the Earth's North and South Poles. Two pieces of arctic air broke off this week, sending frigid air south into the United States, according to The National Weather Service.
"This is the coldest air we've had in this area in awhile," William and Mary professor Chuck Bailey said Friday. "We had a really mild November, so it makes the cold more memorable."
Warmer, more seasonable air will push the cold air out and return temperatures back to normal Saturday, Bailey said. Another patch of frosty air will come in Sunday night, again dropping temperatures in the area to the 30s before they rebound to the 50s by mid-week.
"This is kind of your typical, Mid-Atlantic weather for this time of year. You can go from beautiful days in the 60s to much colder days in one week," Bailey said.
Brisk temperatures didn't keep people off the ice at Liberty Ice Pavilion Friday, with a group of teens skating around the rink holding their mitten-covered hands. On Ironbound Road, a jogger kept his pace brisk, stopping once to adjust his hat and scarf before continuing toward Richmond Road.
The Virginia Department of Transportation issued a warning for travelers Friday night into Saturday morning, advising drivers to be prepared to deal with a wintery mix of light snow, freezing rain and sleet.
The state's transportation agency recommended drivers avoid travel between 3 a.m. and 9 a.m. when low temperatures could cause icy road conditions, according to a news release.
VDOT crews worked Friday to brine I-64 from York County to the New Kent County line along with I-95 and U.S. Route 58, officials said.
Cold weather also creates dry conditions ripe for brush fires like the one on the campus of the College of William and Mary Thursday evening. A discarded cigarette tossed into some leaves and brush caused a small fire in the area of Green and Gold Village, university spokeswoman Erin Zagursky said.
Williamsburg Fire Department responded to the blaze, which they put out within a few minutes. No buildings or other structures were in danger from the small fire and no injuries were reported, Zagursky said.
House fires were also reported during the cold snap in York and James City counties. Fire officials in both counties continued to investigate Friday and did not have information on what caused them.
Fire officials did advise people using space heaters in their homes to use caution. Heaters should be plugged directly into wall sockets and not run on extension cords, which may overheat. Users also should not place anything combustible near or in front of a heater, fire officials said.
But we'll soon have a respite from the cold: Saturday will be cloudy, with a wintery mix of precipitation before noon, but high temperatures will rebound to the mid-50s in the afternoon with overnight lows staying near 50. Sunday will be a warmer day with a high of 67 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
Canty can be reached by phone at 757-247-4832.