Bitter cold expected to hit much of the U.S. just before Christmas
Freezing temperatures and heavy snow are expected to hit large swaths of the U.S. in the week leading up to Christmas, leading to dangerous conditions and possibly disrupting travel for millions.
"We're looking at much-below normal temperatures, potentially record-low temperatures leading up to the Christmas holiday," said Zack Taylor, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
The polar air arrives as an earlier storm system gradually winds down in the northeastern U.S. after burying parts of the region under two feet (61 centimeters) of snow. More than 80,000 customers in New England were still without power on Sunday morning, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks outages across the country.
The incoming arctic front brings "extreme and prolonged freezing conditions for southern Mississippi and southeast Louisiana," the National Weather Service in a special weather statement Sunday.
By Thursday night, temperatures will plunge as low as 13 degrees (minus 10.6 Celsius) in Jackson, Mississippi; and around 5 degrees (minus 15 Celsius) in Nashville, Tennessee, the National Weather Service predicts.
For much of the U.S., the winter weather will get worse before it gets better.
The coming week has the potential for "the coldest air of the season" as the strong arctic front marches across the eastern two-thirds of the country in the days before Christmas, according to the latest forecasts from the federal Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.
The center warned of a "massive expanse of frigid temperatures from the Northern Rockies/Northern Plains to the Midwest through the middle of the week, and then reaching the Gulf Coast and much of the Eastern U.S. by Friday and into the weekend."
In Illinois, The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Watch from 6 p.m. Thursday through 6 a.m. Saturday for Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, Will, LaSalle, Kankakee, Grundy, and DeKalb Counties. In Chicago, Tuesday and Wednesday are expected to see high temperatures near 30 degrees, but Thursday and Friday will bring extreme winter weather.
Freezing temperatures, high winds, and snow are all in the forecast, CBS Chicago reports. The low temperatures on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are likely to be in the single digits with wind chills well below zero, according to CBS Chicago. Wind gusts in the area could reach up to 55 mph, potentially causing power outages.
Single-digit temperatures and subzero wind chills are also expected in the Twin Cities, according to CBS Minnesota. Tuesday will see a high temperature of just seven degrees, and Wednesday could bring 4 to 8 inches of snow, CBS Minnesota reports. The snow is expected to stop falling by Thursday, but wind gusts of up to 50 mph could whip up the snow from the ground and cause whiteout conditions, CBS Minnesota reports. Friday could bring much of the same, with wind chills as low as minus 45 degrees.
Freezing temperatures are expected as far south as Texas. North Texas could see a rapid decline in temperatures on Thursday, with highs at the beginning of the day hovering in the high 30s and low 40s, but dipping drastically as winds pick up, CBS DFW reports. Friday will then bring temperatures in the low teens and single digits, with wind chills below zero.
The low Friday night in Atlanta will be around 13 degrees (minus 10.6 Celsius) with the high temperature Saturday still below the freezing mark at around 29 degrees (minus 1.7 Celsius), the Weather Service projects.
Freezing temperatures can take lives in an instant — a heartbreaking reality that Atlanta homeless advocate George Chidi knows firsthand.
He went to check on a woman with severe mental health issues in downtown Atlanta earlier this year, and found she had died of suspected hypothermia just hours earlier. Her body was found outside the Greyhound bus station, which is open 24 hours in the heart of downtown Atlanta, he said.
"She died within 100 feet of three heated buildings," Chidi said.
He said people without housing who die in freezing weather often do so because they are battling alcohol, drugs or severe mental illness, or they do not trust others and find themselves on the streets rather than a shelter with other people.
Homeless people in southern states are also vulnerable to its weather patterns that make it comfortable one week, but suddenly freezing the next.
"A main factor isn't the temperature itself," Chidi said. "It's the speed with which the temperature drops."
Florida will not have a white Christmas, but forecasters are expecting that weekend to be unusually cold throughout the state.
Northern Florida cities such as Jacksonville, Tallahassee and Pensacola have predicted lows in the 20s (minus 3 Celsius) on Christmas Eve, with highs of about 40 (4 Celsius).
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