Forecasters warn of treacherous holiday travel and life-threatening cold for much of the country as an arctic air mass blows into the already frigid southern United States.
“We’re looking at temperatures well below normal, possibly record low temperatures leading up to the Christmas holiday,” said Zack Taylor, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
The “rare and dangerous arctic air mass is likely to bring extreme and prolonged freezing conditions for southern Mississippi and southeastern Louisiana,” the National Weather Service wrote in a special weather statement on Sunday.
By Thursday evening, temperatures will drop to 13 degrees (minus 10.6 degrees Celsius) in Jackson, Mississippi; and around 5 degrees (minus 15 degrees Celsius) in Nashville, Tennessee, the National Weather Service predicts.
Incoming arctic air arrives as a previous storm system in the northeastern U.S. gradually subsides after burying parts of the region under 2 feet (61 cm) of snow. More than 80,000 New England customers were still without power Sunday morning, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks outages across the country.
For much of the US, winter weather will get worse before it gets better. The latest forecasts from the federal Weather Prediction Center in College Park say the week ahead will bring the chance of a “significant winter storm” across the eastern two-thirds of the United States in the second half of the week, just before Christmas. , Maryland.
“The main weather story that will make headlines next week is the vast expanse of frigid temperatures from the Northern Rockies/Northern Plains to the Midwest during the middle of the week, then reaching the Gulf Coast and much of the eastern US through Friday and into the weekend,” the Weather Prediction Center warned.
“An extremely strong polar front will usher in the coldest air of the season by a significant margin, with widespread subzero temperatures expected for overnight lows from the Northern Rockies to the Central/Northern Plains and Upper Midwest, well into the South and in the north. Oklahoma and southern Missouri.”
In Atlanta, where low temperatures are expected to dip below freezing early Monday morning, forecasters are warning of even colder air by the end of the week, according to the National Weather Service office in Peachtree City, Georgia. Friday night’s low in Atlanta will be around 13 degrees (minus 10.6 degrees Celsius) with Saturday’s high temperature still below freezing around 29 degrees (minus 1.7 degrees Celsius), the Weather Service projects.
Florida will not have a white Christmas, but forecasters expect the weekend to be unusually cold across the state.
North Florida cities such as Jacksonville, Tallahassee and Pensacola have predicted lows in the 20s (minus 3 degrees Celsius) on Christmas Eve, with highs around 40 (4 degrees Celsius). Orlando and Tampa are not expected to hit 50 (10 degrees Celsius) on Christmas Eve, and even Miami is not expected to go above 50 (15 degrees Celsius).
In the Northeast, utilities brought in additional workers from other states, but were hampered by slippery roads and hazardous conditions.
“This was a heavy, wet snow, so it impacted both travel and infrastructure in that area,” said Frank Pereira, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Officials in Vermont warned Saturday that some customers may be without power for two to three days. The state was looking for sites for potential warming centers in the hardest hit areas, in case they were needed, state officials said.
Police across New England responded to hundreds of accidents or vehicles skidding off the road during the weekend storm. The Maine State Police said Saturday night they had responded to more than 180 accidents since Friday night. According to the state police, there were only minor injuries.