Arctic cold spreads across the country

The entire country is about to get a taste of the arctic air that's blown in. By Friday there will be freezing temperatures in all 50 states.

It's already freezing in Colorado. They're blowing snow, not leaves.

More record lows are forecast for the Plains and the Rockies tonight and the wind will only make it feel worse.

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Snow blankets Denver.
CBS News

Haver, Montana is expected to hit -17 Fahrenheit, with a wind chill factor of -26.

Even though it is still more than five weeks away from winter it felt like -32 with wind chill in Denver early Thursday, a 101-degree difference from Miami.

The unseasonable cold front sent the mercury down to -14 degrees Thursday morning, snapping a record set in 1916.

With a combined capacity of 1,300, Denver homeless shelters are starting to fill up. Denver's public library has become a daytime refuge for people like Lawrence Cox who have nowhere else to go.

"If I don't get in the shelter, I might end up going to jail or to detox," said Cox. "On purpose."

Nearly 40 emergency beds were set up just for homeless women at one recreation center so they could feel both safe and warm.

In Minneapolis, where sub-freezing temperatures have blanketed the state for the fourth straight day.

The bitter chill is also hitting Casper, Wyoming. Last night it dropped to 27 below zero, a record for November. In Little Rock, Ark. they saw the earliest snowfall in more than 20 years.

A small army of shovelers were hired at $10 an hour to clear out the University of Minnesota football stadium in time for Saturday's game.

Dave Mansell heads up a construction crew nearby. The frigid cold has caught his team off guard.

"It's pretty brutal," Mansell said. "It wears you down pretty hard in the winter time, so guys get really tired. It's hard working out in the cold all day. You've gotta have all the gear on. It's tough."

The cold snap is expected to last 11 days, a stretch seen only three times in 100 years.

So, what's next?

The warm spots around the country are disappearing. The cold is now into the deep South. Freeze warnings are out all the way to South Texas, to places like Corpus Christi along the Gulf Coast all the way to Georgia and the Florida panhandle.

There will be cold temperatures on Friday morning and then again on Saturday.

Looking at the overall weather pattern there is a big ridge in the jet stream, up over Alaska, with cold coming down across the country. Another shot is coming this weekend. By next week the cold front will go even deeper into the Southeast, bringing extreme cold to the Midwest and Northeast with temperatures 25 to 35 degrees colder than average. This will continue all the way to Thanksgiving.

Just to illustrate how unusual this weather pattern is; Billings, Montana, made it to only 12 degrees today; it was 32 in Barrow, Alaska -- which is above the Arctic Circle.