The South storm will be the fourth in the last two weeks to threaten major impacts to areas east of the Rockies as a frenetic start to 2024 shows no signs of stopping.
Damaging ice and wind combined with deadly results in Oregon Saturday. On Sunday, serious lake-effect snow was ongoing in Buffalo, New York; blinding snow squalls were possible across the Northeast; and strong winds were still kicking up snow and affecting travel in the Midwest.
But in the warmer South, it’s been all tornadoes and severe thunderstorms with past storms. That’s all set to change as the arctic chill settles over the region and much of the country.
More than 75% of the US population will experience temperatures below freezing over the next seven days. Just through Tuesday, more than 250 daily cold temperature records could be broken from Oregon to Mississippi. The cold will make for the coldest Iowa caucuses on record Monday, with below zero high temperatures and wind chills in the minus 30s forecast.
People in Dallas, Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee, woke up to temperatures in the teens Sunday. By Tuesday, those same temperatures arrive for Atlanta, Montgomery, Alabama and Shreveport, Louisiana.
In southern cities such as Memphis, Dallas and Nashville, temperatures are expected to remain below freezing for at least 72 consecutive hours. The prolonged cold could lead to “damage to exposed pipes and water main breaks are expected,” warned the National Weather Service office in Jackson, Mississippi.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves issued a state of emergency starting Sunday, according to a news release from the governor’s office.
“All Mississippians in the impacted areas are encouraged to take precautions over the next few days. Prepare your homes now for below-freezing temperatures, bring pets inside, and check in with your loved ones who are most susceptible during this frigid weather,” the release said.
The extreme cold will also test Texas’s notoriously vulnerable-to-extreme-temperatures power grid for the first time this winter. The plummeting temperatures will increase power demand on the grid enough that the state’s independent grid operator, ERCOT, issued a weather watch, warning of the impending surge in demand and a potential dip in reserves.
ERCOT said there was expected to be enough power to avoid outages. However, the agency asked Texans to conserve electricity use Monday as it “expects tight grid conditions.”
A wind chill as low as minus 71 degrees was reported in Montana Saturday. It won’t feel that cold in the South, but winds of 10 to 25 mph could cause life-threatening wind chills that could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 30 minutes.
With the cold air in place, a new system will move out of the Rockies and into the southern Plains bringing snow, sleet and freezing rain from Texas to Virginia.
Winter storm alerts stretch from Texas to Virginia and encompass more than 45 million people, including all of Tennessee and Arkansas.
“The prolonged nature of this event could result in moderate to major potential winter storm impacts over parts of Arkansas, northwest Mississippi and western Tennessee,” the Weather Prediction Center said.
The warnings aren’t limited to the South: On Sunday, the National Weather Service announced a snow squall warning for the city of Philadelphia. The service warned of “intense bursts of heavy snow and gusty winds leading to blowing snow and rapidly falling visibility” and said “travel will become difficult to potentially dangerous within minutes.”
The New York City Emergency Management Department issued a Weather Alert for Sunday, warning of an arctic cold front expected to sweep through the region in the early afternoon.
The snow squall threat had ended for New York City by late Sunday afternoon, according to emergency management, though a few flurries remained possible Sunday night with light snow expected into Tuesday, the agency said on X.
States of emergency were declared in both Arkansas and Louisiana ahead of the system to prepare for its arrival.
Ice is one of the biggest concerns. A strip of sleet and freezing rain is expected from San Angelo, Texas, to Huntsville, Alabama. Hazardous ice could build up on roadways, trees and power lines.
And because of the cold, the slick wintry precipitation won’t melt on untreated surfaces for the Monday morning commute in places like Dallas and Shreveport, Louisiana, making travel more dangerous.
Dallas is expected to see a combination of freezing rain, sleet and snow from 3 p.m. Sunday through 9 a.m. Monday. The timing will skew a few hours later in points to the east.
The storm will lay down a coating of snow between 2 and 6 inches from Oklahoma to Virginia, just north of where the heaviest ice will fall.
Memphis, which has had no measurable snow so far this year, is forecast to see between 3 and 7 inches. The threat here begins late Sunday and continues through Monday overnight.
Snow accumulations of 1 to 3 inches are also expected from Oklahoma City through Tulsa. Nearly the entire state of Arkansas is expected to see at least 3 inches, with some locations picking up as much as 6 inches total. Snowfall accumulations of 3 to 5 inches are expected for Nashville and Knoxville, Tennessee.
The storm will clear the South by late Tuesday and could then track into the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, increasing snow chances there by Wednesday.
CNN Meteorologist Sara Tonks contributed to this story.
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