Flash Flood Watch

Deep Freeze in Midwest, Northeast to Be Prolonged

By By Alex Sosnowski, senior meteorologist.
January 25, 2014, 6:58:15 AM EST

This news story has the latest information on the next blast of arctic air headed to the United States.

Bitterly cold air has again settled southward from the Arctic into a large part of the Eastern states. Unlike the outbreak from early January, this time the cold will have more staying power.

Through the end of January, the polar vortex will hover just north of the United States border causing waves of frigid air to blast into the Midwest and much of the East.

The polar vortex is a commonly used term among the meteorological community to describe an area of low pressure in the upper atmosphere which has a semi-permanent location in the Northern Hemisphere near the North Pole. This feature contains Arctic air and occasionally, during the autumn, winter and spring, pieces of this feature can dip farther south, approaching the mid-latitudes.


Tuesday morning, RealFeel® temperatures plunged to minus 40 F over the Upper Midwest and were below zero as far south as portions of the Ohio Valley and as far east as northern New England.

On Thursday morning, temperatures dipped to their lowest level in 18 years at Washington, D.C.'s Dulles Airport. According to the National Weather Service, it was the first sub-zero temperature since early February of 1996.

The advancing waves of cold will be severe enough to bring life-threatening conditions, hypothermia and the risk of frostbite to areas from the northern Plains to New England.

The penetrating cold has the potential to cause water main breaks as far south as the Ohio Valley and mid-Atlantic and to freeze pipes into parts of the South.

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Heating systems may struggle to keep up, and people will spend more money keeping their homes and businesses warm. In parts of the South, where electricity is the primary source of heat, the demand for electricity will skyrocket.

While widespread power outages are not anticipated during the cold outbreak. However, some sporadic power outages are possible associated with a strong storm forecast to visit the Great Lakes and Northeast Friday night into Saturday.

School delays and closures are possible even in areas that receive little or no snow, due to the cold and low RealFeel Temperatures.

In the Northern states, temperatures will dip low enough to inhibit the effectiveness of most inexpensive ice melting compounds. Rock salt will not work when the temperature drops to 15 F or lower.

The combination of the cold and open waters of the Great Lakes will lead to rounds of lake-effect snow and whiteout conditions.

The latest waves of frigid air broke loose in the wake of an Alberta Clipper storm that tracked through the Midwest and strengthened into a blizzard near the East Coast Tuesday. This type of storm is so named for its origin in the western provinces of Canada.


While temperatures will briefly rebound in between the reinforcing waves of cold air, the rebounds will be much less pronounced from the Midwest to New England and may be barely noticeable in the northern tier states.

Temperatures may stay below freezing in Minneapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit and Cleveland through the end of the month, where highs most days will be in the teens.

In Boston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York City and Indianapolis, temperatures may only surpass the freezing mark on one or two days through Jan. 31.

The persistent cold will cause a renewed buildup of ice on rivers in the Northern states. Ice jams could again become a problem during the coming weeks.

The cold waves will reach into the South. The cold was contributing to snow and ice in parts of Texas Thursday and was responsible for portions of Florida being colder than Alaska.

In much of the South, temperatures will not be as low as that of the first week of January. However, many areas over the interior will have multiple nights where the temperature spends multiple hours well below freezing. Temperatures will dip to near freezing during a few nights along the upper Gulf Coast.

As the pattern begins to change toward the end of the month, storms could ride up from the Gulf of Mexico to along the Atlantic Seaboard.


Enough cold air may stick around for these storms to bring snow.

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