Dramatic central, eastern US warmup may make it feel 60 to 80 degrees higher

By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
January 22, 2018, 11:10:16 AM EST

A second thaw for January will build across the central and eastern United States into early next week.

People will be able to shed heavy winter coats and get the car washed. However, the thaw may also cause some problems such as dangerous black ice, ice jam flooding and water main bursts.

"In parts of the South Central states, temperatures approached their lowest point of this century Wednesday morning," according to AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams.

The temperature dipped to 19 F in New Orleans on Wednesday morning. It was the coldest morning in the Big Easy since Feb. 5, 1996.

"Temperatures have nowhere to go but up this weekend," Abrams said.

Initial Thaw 1.20 AM

Mild air began to build from the Rockies and Plains to the Midwest on Thursday.

High pressure is forecast to exit off the Carolina coast, rather than the New England coast.

In this position, a clockwise flow of air around the zone of dry weather will create a west to southwest breeze that will help carry the milder air northward and eastward through Sunday. Only where snow stays on the ground will the warm-up be delayed for a time.

Warmup SC 1.20 AM

From the coldest mornings of this past week to the warmest afternoons this weekend, actual temperatures in some locations will be 60 degrees higher from the Plains to the Midwest and Eastern states.

Factoring in AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures, it may feel 60 to 80 degrees warmer in some areas from the middle of this week versus this weekend and early next week.

"In the Northeast, it probably will not get quite as warm with this thaw, compared to the thaw a week earlier," Abrams said. "However, for those who mind the frigid weather, this will be a nice break."

Somewhat colder air will return from west to east during the early and middle part of next week.

Thaw may bring hazards

Static East Thaw ENW

With the thaw will first come the risk of areas of black ice. This threat could arise as extensive snowcover in the Central and Eastern states will melt by day and freeze at night.

Some surfaces will become slippery in the evenings.

The risk of ice jams will also return to the northern states.

Static Mamakating, NY Ice Jam

A house in Mamakating, New York, is surrounded by ice and fast-moving water on all sides due to an ice jam on Jan. 12, 2018. (Facebook Photo/New York State Police)

"While the previous thaw scoured out a lot of the ice from the streams and smaller rivers, some additional ice jams and flooding may occur with the second thaw," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dale Mohler.

New ice has not had as much time to form and build with the more recent cold snaps compared to that of late December and early January.

"It is possible we have more issues with some of the major rivers this time, compared to last as some of that older ice gets bottled up downstream," Mohler said.

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As of Thursday afternoon, ice had gathered along portions of the Susquehanna River in southern Pennsylvania, along the Delaware River above Philadelphia and along the Connecticut River in southern Connecticut. Flooding from the Housatonic River occurred in Kent, Massachusetts, earlier this week.

Chilly air may then fight back in part of the Northeast from Sunday to Monday.

"There will be a back door push of cold air into northern New York state and New England that will interrupt the warmup for a day or so," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson.

That chilly press may slow the thaw and perhaps lower the risk of ice jam flooding in northern New England.

Like the last thaw, a storm with mostly rain will move from west to east across the Central and Eastern states spanning this weekend to early next week. At this time, rainfall does not appear to be as heavy as that which occurred during Jan. 11 and 12.

However, streams and rivers are running higher and more places have more snow on the ground now, compared to the start of the first thaw.

As a result, there may be a risk of flooding once again along unprotected areas of streams and rivers in the Midwest and Northeast.

With the frequency of the major freeze and thaw cycles, the number of potholes is likely to increase. Another concern is for water mains rupturing due to the ground heaving and contracting with the changing temperatures.

Until the snowcover is erased, the mild and moist air moving in is likely to bring areas of fog.

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