Coldest Air in Decades Threatens to Freeze Pipes in South, East

By , Expert Senior Meteorologist
January 7, 2014; 5:23 PM ET
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Temperatures early on Tuesday over much of the interior South and the mid-Atlantic have ventured into territory that has not been felt in two decades.

The arctic blast will bring the risk of frostbite and hypothermia to those not properly dressed. It will also bring the potential for dead car batteries, frozen pipes, water main breaks and power outages.

In some areas, moisture left behind from recent rainfall may not only cause car doors to freeze shut, but could produce patches of black ice on untreated roads and sidewalks.

Lows dipped into the single digits and broke records Tuesday morning in Austin, Texas; Birmingham, Ala.; Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; Richmond, Va.; Baltimore; Pittsburgh; Philadelphia; Newark, N.J. and New York City.

Temperatures in many of these locations have not been this low since the arctic outbreaks of January 1997, February 1996 and January 1994.

What is a polar vortex?

Wind and other atmospheric conditions are resulting in RealFeel® temperatures averaging 10 to 20 degrees lower than the actual temperature. Wind chill warnings and advisories are in place for at least 25 states.

The intense winter weather in the Midwest has closed some telephone call centers and could result in long hold times. Charles Schwab investment services was among one of the companies reporting delays on Monday.

Along the I-95 mid-Atlantic corridor, the arctic air was just arriving on the scene on Monday. Temperatures feel 60 to 80 degrees lower on Tuesday morning, compared to how it felt on Monday morning.

During Monday morning, the Electric Emergency Reliability Council of Texas announced an Energy Emergency Alert. The measure is the first of two stages to thwart rotating power outages, by bringing online all available means to generate electricity and asking home and business owners to conserve.

While temperatures are falling short of the cold outbreak of January 2010 in Texas, the state is setting record lows on Tuesday morning.

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Across much of the northern Plains and in part of the Midwest, RealFeel temperatures dipped to the 40- to 70-below-zero range on Monday morning and forced some schools to close.

According to AccuWeather.com Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams, "The temperature of minus 16 degrees Monday morning became the first January record low temperature of the 21st century for Chicago's O'Hare Airport."

Schools are closed in Minneapolis and Chicago again on Tuesday, as temperatures have plummeted to the negative double digits.

In parts of the South and the East, some record low temperatures for the date set as far back as the 1800s are being challenged and broken on Tuesday morning.

An 1884 record for the date was shattered in Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday morning when the temperature plunged to 6 F.

New York City's Central Park temperature plummeted to 4 F on Tuesday morning. This ties the old record for the date set way back in 1896.

According to Agricultural Weather Expert Dale Mohler, "While there will be a freeze in central Florida Tuesday morning, damaging cold is not expected in the citrus groves."

Just as the worst of the cold will stay north of the Florida Peninsula, it will swing south of New England.

Benchmark Lows to be Challenged in Recent Decades

Location
Benchmark Low
Austin, Texas
10 degrees on Jan., 9, 2010
Nashville, Tenn.
Minus 3 degrees on Feb., 5, 1996
Atlanta
6 degrees on Feb. 5, 1996
Charlotte, N.C.
7 degrees on Feb. 5, 1996
Birmingham, Ala.
4 degrees on Feb. 5, 1996
Washington, D.C.
5 degrees on Feb. 5, 1996
Pittsburgh
Minus 10 degrees on Jan. 17, 2009
Chicago
Minus 18 degrees on Jan. 16, 2009
Minneapolis
Minus 32 on Feb. 2, 1996
Philadelphia
3 degrees on Feb. 5, 1996
New York City
1 degree on Jan. 10, 2004

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