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Northeast snow droughts end as Arctic blast brings record cold and frostbite-inducing wind chills

A brutal Arctic blast is bringing record-low temperatures and life-threatening wind chills across a large swath of the United States as snow and ice spread from the South to New England and a new storm targets the Northwest with dangerous ice. Here’s the latest:

Record snowless streaks end: Enough snow fell in New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, DC, to end nearly 2-year-long waits for an inch of snow there. The cities all recorded at least an inch of snow in 24 hours, something that hadn’t been done in more than 700 days in all the locations. The streaks were record-long in Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia and the DC area’s Dulles International Airport.

Record-breaking cold temperatures: Nearly 80% of the US will see below-freezing temperatures over the next week as another shot of cold air spreads across the country by late week. Numerous daily cold records have already been set – including across Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. It snowed as far south as Mobile, Alabama, and Pensacola, Florida, on Tuesday morning, and while there was no accumulation, both cities reported rare snowfall for a few hours. Hundreds of Alabama National Guardsmen jumped into action to assist motorists and clear vehicles on Interstate 65. Hard freeze warnings are expected Tuesday evening for much of the Gulf Coast, from Texas to Florida. Temperatures in Memphis, Dallas and Nashville are expected to stay below freezing for at least 72 consecutive hours.

Frostbite can happen in minutes: Much of the Rockies, Great Plains and Midwest will see life-threatening sub-zero wind chills into Wednesday, with wind chills as low as minus 30 degrees over the Northern Plains. “These wind chills could cause frostbite on exposed skin in a few minutes and hypothermia shortly thereafter,” the National Weather Service warned.

At least 12 deaths across several states: Deaths have been reported across Arkansas, Oregon, Mississippi, Kansas and Tennessee since January 12 as back-to-back winter storms have pummeled the US with dangerous wind, ice and snow. One person was killed and another was injured in Arkansas after their pickup truck careened off a snowy White County highway and hit a tree, according to state police.

Icy roads make travel dangerous: Wintry conditions were reported on roads in at least a half-dozen southern states Tuesday morning. Crashes on a slick I-10 in southern Louisiana closed an expansive stretch of the highway in both directions Tuesday morning. Transportation departments across the region urged people to stay home and off roads as they tried to combat the conditions. “Hundreds” of travel incidents unfolded on Tennessee roads Monday, the state’s DOT said.

10,000 flights cancelled: The transportation toll from a hyperactive stretch of winter weather goes beyond roads. More than 10,000 flights have been cancelled since Friday, FlightAware data shows. Most cancellations Tuesday were in the East because of the active storm, but the flight issues stretch as far west as Denver.

Schools and government offices are closed: School districts in more than half a dozen states, including Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and West Virginia announced closures amid the frigid temperatures. Federal government offices closed in Washington, DC, for the first time since Jan. 7, 2022 because of the weather.

Snow and freezing rain sweep into Northeast

As dangerously cold temperatures continue across much of the US – with more than 95 million people in 35-plus states under winter weather alerts – snow and freezing rain over the South spread into the mid-Atlantic, Northeast and New England through Tuesday.

Downwind of the Great Lakes, heavy lake effect snowfall is expected to stir up some significant travel headaches. Lake Effect snow happens when cold air moves across the open, unfrozen waters of the Great Lakes, creating narrow bands that produce 2 to 3 inches of snow per hour or more.

Buffalo, New York, is under a lake effect snow warning from Tuesday afternoon through Thursday evening, with heavy lake effect snowfall of 1 to 3 feet and gusts to 40 mph possible. Watertown, also under a winter storm watch through early Friday, could see heavy lake effect snowfall of 2 to 3 feet possible.

“Travel could be very difficult to impossible. Areas of blowing snow could significantly reduce visibility,” the National Weather Service office in Buffalo warned. “The hazardous conditions could impact the Wednesday morning and evening commute.”

This region had just received over 3 feet of snowfall from a previous round of very heavy lake effect snowfall.

New York City received 1.6 inches of snow after not getting an inch of snow fall in a single day in more than 700 days.

Washington, DC, received 4.1 inches of snow from the storm, ending the city’s streak without at least an inch of snow in 728 days.

Philadelphia also broke its snow drought with 1.5 inches falling as of early Tuesday after 715 days of not seeing an inch of snowfall.

As the Northeast deals with snow, another storm will move onshore over the Pacific Northwest from Tuesday into Wednesday as the region continues recovering from a damaging storm that hit late last week.

An ice storm warning is in place for over 3 million people across the region, including Portland, with freezing rain set to arrive there in the late afternoon, close to the evening commute. Enough ice could accumulate to cause damage to trees and power lines, threatening power outages. The city’s school district said all public schools will be closed Wednesday due to the ongoing ice storm. The system will also bring rain over parts of the Pacific Northwest into California, with snow over higher elevations.

Sub-zero wind chills

Temperatures are expected to moderate Wednesday before a new surge of cold air will arrive over the northern Plains and Midwest and the Deep South by the end of the week, according to the weather service.

Wind chill temperatures – how cold the air feels on exposed skin – are expected to remain at hazardous lows that cause frostbite and hypothermia.

Dangerously cold wind chills as low as 30 below zero are expected in North Dakota and other parts of the Northern Plains Wednesday. Subzero wind chills will spread as far east as New England and as far south as Mississippi.

“Avoid outdoor activities if possible. If you must be outside, wear appropriate clothing, dress in layers, and cover exposed skin. Keep pets indoors,” the National Weather Service said. “Have a cold survival kit if you must travel.”

CNN Meteorologist Sara Tonks and CNN’s Zenebou Sylla, Sarah Dewberry, Amy Simonson, Andi Babineau, Gregory Wallace and Pete Muntean contributed to this report.

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