Christmas might have felt like summer to residents of the metro area, but that won't be the case on New Year's Day, with temperatures averaging in the 20s and dipping as low as the teens.
The cold front will hit northwestern Oklahoma on Saturday morning, before progressing toward the state's midsection. Southern Oklahoma is not expected to feel the drastic drop in temperature until mid-afternoon. Temperatures likely will drop below freezing by 6 p.m. Saturday
"We'll probably see dropping temperatures throughout the holiday, for the most part," said Matthew Day, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Norman. "By Sunday morning, we're going to be mostly single digits across all of Oklahoma."
The dramatic change follows unseasonably warm weather Oklahoma experienced over the Christmas weekend, which saw temperatures as high as the 70s and 80s and set regional records.
A cold air mass so suddenly replacing such a warm air mass is predictable, meteorologists say. The cold front is following typical patterns of arctic air originating at the North Pole, blowing from northwest to southeast.
But as quickly as temperatures dropped over the weekend, by the next weekday, the state is expecting to return to average daily temperatures for the season.
"We'll be back in the 50s again by Monday, is what we're forecasting," Day said.
Until then, experts offered numerous recommendations on how to stay safe and warm during the freeze.
Dress appropriately and limit your travel. "You don't want to go out into the cold unless you absolutely have to," Day said. "If you do, make sure you're dressed in warm layers."
Drip your faucets and stay weather-aware and storm-prepared. Whenever severe weather is in the forecast, it's always a good idea to make sure your pantry is stocked, so that you are prepared just in case the power goes out or you can't leave your residence. Remember to drip the cold water from the faucets in your home, too, ahead of a severe freezing warning. Running water through the pipes can prevent them from freezing, even if it's just a trickle.
Drive with care and pack a kit with you for emergencies. Oklahoma already ranks high in automobile-related fatalities, and the winter months can be especially dangerous. Wet weather making roads and bridges slick and freezing temperatures bringing ice and snow also increase the risk of car tires losing traction. For the New Year's weekend, meteorologists don't expect much frozen precipitation outside of flurries of snow and fleeting sleet, but it's never a bad idea to be mindful of weather conditions (as well as the condition of your own car) while you drive. Keep an emergency kit nearby, too, just in case.
Keep combustible items away from heating equipment. If you're in a residence that doesn't have central air and heating, then you're probably using space heaters, floor furnaces and fireplaces to keep warm. With colder weather comes greater risk for home fires. The Oklahoma City Fire Department reminds residents to make sure there's at least three feet kept between the heat source and anything that could catch fire. And in the case of a fireplace, it's best to keep the damper, or "flue," open while the fire is going and until all of the embers are done burning. This ensures that heat is not being trapped while the warm air travels through your chimney up to your roof. If the damper is not open when the fireplace is in use, the smoke will back up and quickly fill the home.
Install smoke alarms and check them regularly. Despite your best efforts, while trying to keep warm or finish cooking, you might still start a fire. Working smoke alarms have played key roles in keeping residents safe and ensuring they can be rescued in time. Benny Fulkerson, with the Oklahoma City Fire Department, also said it's helpful to have a fire escape plan in mind for you and your family ahead of the worst-case scenario.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Freezing weather to hit Oklahoma on New Year's Day