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US freezes with record cold temperatures, polar blast


Residents used shovels and snow blowers to dig out of one of the biggest snow storms of the season that dumped more than a foot of precipitation accross parts of the northeastern U.S. overnight Monday. (March 4)

More than 200 million people across the nation were awakening to freezing temperatures Tuesday, but the good news is that a March that has been roaring like a wintry lion might actually go out like a lamb.

The polar blast finishing up this week should be the last widespread outbreak of frigid air for the season, according to AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok.

“After this week, with a few brief exceptions, Arctic air will be locked up in northern Canada,” Pastelok said. “There should be an increasing number of milder days as opposed to cold days for the middle and latter part of March in the Central and Eastern states.”

The main weather story Sunday and early Monday was the deadly and violent tornado outbreak in the South. But the other big weather news was heavy snow in parts of the Northeast that shut down New York City schools and the ongoing record cold spreading across the central and eastern U.S.

Some 189 million Americans awoke to temperatures that were at or below freezing Monday morning, meteorologist Ryan Maue said. And some 220 million will shiver with similar freezing temperatures Tuesday morning.

“Highs on Tuesday and Wednesday are expected to be roughly 15 to 30 degrees below early March averages for most locations east of the Rocky Mountains,” the National Weather Service said.

The storm contributed to the death of two teens in a single-car accident Sunday evening in the Philadelphia area, authorities reported. On Monday, a small regional jet slid off a runway at Maine’s Presque Island International Airport. Three passengers and the pilot suffered minor injuries. 

On Monday, dozens of record lows were set all the way from Washington state to Texas.

The temperature bottomed out at 46 degrees below zero at Elk Park, Montana, Monday morning, which was likely a new all-time March low for the entire state , the National Weather Service in Great Falls said. 

Temperatures across Montana  in many cases were as much as 50 degrees below the early March average. Wind chills were also unimaginably cold across the northern Plains, dipping to almost 60 below zero in some spots. 

Maue also said that the temperatures in Texas on Monday were record cool for early March. 

The cold, though less intense, will spill toward the East Coast and Southeast on Tuesday. A few records are again possible.

When this freakish cold spell is done, several hundred new record-low temperatures will have fallen, according to Capital Weather Gang meteorologist Ian Livingston.

Due to the cold, the snow that hit the Northeast Sunday and Monday will stick around for a few days. Boston saw about 10 inches of snow, but parts of Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts saw up to 16 inches, according to the National Weather Service. 

About 5 inches of slushy snow fell in New York City, leading Mayor Bill de Blasio to close schools.  

Meanwhile, in the West, yet another storm will unleash torrential rain across the state, potentially leading to more mudslides and flooding.

Some of the heaviest rain is expected near coastal locations between San
Francisco and Los Angeles, the weather service warned. “Many of these locations have received above average precipitation over the past several weeks which has left the area be more susceptible to flooding.”

Officials in Santa Barbara County issued evacuation orders Monday afternoon anticipating rain triggering debris flows Tuesday. The orders included areas burned by the Thomas, Whittier and Sherpa fires in 2017 and 2016. 

According to AccuWeather meteorologist Maggie Samuhel, “with the ground already saturated and 1-3 inches of rain expected, flooding will be an issue.”

More heavy snow will again plaster the Sierra Nevada, with up to 4 feet possible in some areas. 

“Looking beyond this week, chilly and unsettled weather can remain the theme in California and most of the West for the middle of March,” according to AccuWeather meteorologist Brett Anderson.


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Contributing: The Associated Press; John Bacon and Kristin Lam, USA TODAY


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