Southeast facing freeze threat as cold air plunges southward
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Much of the country is no stranger to big swings in the weather this time of year with warm springlike weather often being followed by a more wintry pattern during the month of March. This has once again been the case in the Southeast this week, with wintry weather making a quick return in the wake of warmer, springlike weather.
The change may be especially sudden in the wake of Sunday's weather, which resulted in a cluster of strong thunderstorms sweeping across much of the Southeast. Some storms turned severe as well, with damaging wind and large hail reports stretching from the Mississippi River to the Florida Panhandle.
The storm system responsible for this severe weather is responsible for the rapid change in the weather pattern. As the zone of low pressure slides northward and develops into a powerful nor'easter, winds will quickly shift toward a northerly direction across much of the country. This has brought in enough cold air for a major snowstorm in the Northeast, but also send temperatures crashing farther south through Wednesday.
Chilly conditions sparked across the Tennessee Valley and the Carolinas Tuesday morning. Knoxville, Tennessee dropped down to 33F early on Tuesday, while Greensboro, North Carolina dropped down to 28 F.
The cold conditions will be even more expansive Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
In Atlanta, where high temperatures were in the 60s and 70s every day this month through Saturday, these changes have been especially sudden. A low of 31 F is forecast for Tuesday night, with the mercury plunging back into the 30s the night after. In some of the chillier northern suburbs such as Kennesaw and Lawrenceville, Georgia, lows in the 20s F cannot be ruled out Tuesday night.
Chilly weather may even make it into places one would least expect, such as Florida. In Tallahassee, where temperatures have been over 10 degrees Fahrenheit above average so far this month, temperatures are set to plunge into the mid-30s F Wednesday night. Similarly, cold air will be in place in Jacksonville, with a low of 36 F forecast. Average low temperatures for the city are around 50 degrees F this time of year. A few spots in far northern Florida could even briefly drop below the freezing mark Wednesday night, a rarity for mid March.
Farther north, temperatures are set to be even lower. After dropping to around freezing Monday night, a low in the mid to upper 20s F is forecast for Charlotte on Tuesday night, with at least 2 straight nights below freezing in Richmond, Virginia. Downtown Washington, D.C., may struggle to reach the 20s F due to the urban heat island effect, though many of the city's western and northern suburbs are likely to drop into the middle or upper 20s F Tuesday night.
While subfreezing temperatures are certainly not unheard of in March, it will be a stark contrast to recent warm weather for parts of the Southeast. Cold of this level could threaten sensitive vegetation and lead to isolated tree damage.
Those in spots where subfreezing temperatures are forecast will want to bring pets, as well as any sensitive outdoor plants, indoors to avoid the cold air.
As is typically the case with any warm or cold weather in March, this pattern is not likely to last long. By late this week, a northward shift in the jet stream is likely to bring a quick warmup across the Southeast, a sure sign that spring is not far away.
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