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    Freeze Alert: Great Lakes, Northeast

    March 26, 2012; 5:50 AM ET
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    After a week of unusual warmth, the Great Lakes and Northeast are in store for a reality check the next couple of nights with the return of subfreezing temperatures.

    The floodgates to the arctic will open tonight after been sealed shut for the past two weeks, sending cold air plunging into the Great Lakes and Northeast.

    Tonight, subfreezing temperatures will have nearly every community from Lake Superior to the upper Ohio Valley and across the Northeast shivering.

    The chill continue to grip New England and New York Tuesday night.

    In many areas, 50 degrees or more will separate the low temperatures during the upcoming nights from the unseasonably warm and record highs registered last week.

    It is not just actual temperatures that will have many throughout the Great Lakes and Northeast reaching for their winter jackets, but also frigid winds that will create even colder AccuWeather.com RealFeel® temperatures.

    The winds will gust to 40 mph at times throughout the Northeast.

    A low of only seven degrees is expected in Caribou, Maine, tonight with RealFeel temperatures plummeting to 20 below zero -- 95 degrees colder than the 75 degrees that set the city's all-time March record high last Wednesday.

    The impending chill has prompted the issuance of numerous freeze watches and warnings by the National Weather Service, which is usually unheard of this time of year.

    "However, due to the great expanse of budding, blossoming and flower-buying of late, [a freeze] is a worry," stated AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

    Sosnowski is concerned that the presence of gusty winds will contribute to more tender plants falling victim to the subfreezing temperatures than if winds were calm. That is especially true where temperatures are only expected to drop a few degrees below freezing.

    Temperatures as of noon EST today were still not above freezing in Penn Yan, N.Y. in the heart of the Finger Lakes wine country. The cold was penetrating with a sustained wind of 15 to 25 mph and higher gusts.

    Sosnowski explained that in the case of calm winds, "the cold air will collect near the ground, so lower plants, such as grapevines and those flowers you have on the front porch, may be more susceptible than say full-sized fruit trees."

    "[When the wind is blowing], the layer of cold will extend well above the ground."

    The only places that should drop below freezing when the winds are calm during the upcoming nights will be northern Wisconsin and neighboring Michigan tonight, then from the central Great Lakes to the central Appalachians Monday night. In both areas, a frost should glaze many surfaces.

    "Some garden hoses brought out and filled with water could burst under such conditions," Sosnowski stated is another concern of the impending freeze.

    The cold headed to the Great Lakes and Northeast will not last as long as last week's stretch of warm weather. Milder air will quickly return at midweek, but temperatures are expected to take another tumble to close out the week.

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