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Brutal arctic blast expands its reach as the South deals with deadly snow and ice

A brutal and prolonged arctic blast is bringing dangerous cold to a massive swath of the US, including new areas to the south and east, while snow, ice and strong winds slam parts of the South. Here’s the latest:

Record-breaking cold for Iowa caucuses: Monday saw the coldest Iowa caucuses on record, with Des Moines’ highest temperature for the day hitting just one degree Fahrenheit. Other high temperatures across the state were some 25 to 30 degrees below normal for this time of year. And the frigid wind chills are cold enough to cause frostbite in as little as 10 minutes on exposed skin.

Nearly 80% of US to see below freezing temperatures: Over 140 daily cold records could be broken Monday and Tuesday from Oregon to Mississippi, as temperatures in Memphis, Dallas and Nashville are expected to stay below freezing for at least 72 consecutive hours.

Severe weather kills at least five: Brutal back-to-back severe storms over the last few days have left at least five people dead across four states, including Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee, where one weather-related death was reported in Shelby County, which includes Memphis. At least two weather-related deaths were also reported in Oregon over the weekend.

Treacherous travel conditions: Snow, sleet and freezing rain gathered on roadways across parts of the southern and central US Sunday night into Monday, making travel hazardous. 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. In nearby Mississippi, one person died Sunday evening in a weather-related crash, according to the state’s emergency management agency. The wintry mix will continue from Texas through the Lower Mississippi Valley into parts of the Tennessee Valley and Southern Appalachians. “Have a cold survival kit if you must travel,” the National Weather Service said.

Life-threatening wind chills: More than 100 million people in the US are under wind chill alerts stretching from the Canadian border to the Mexican border. Breezy winds are contributing to life-threatening wind chills. In South Dakota, wind chills as low as minus 45 can cause frostbite in as little as 5 minutes. Wind chills of 30 degrees below zero are expected from the Northern Rockies to northern Kansas and into Iowa.

Snow covers the shore of Joe Pool Lake during a winter storm in Grand Prairie, Texas. - Julio Cortez/AP
Snow covers the shore of Joe Pool Lake during a winter storm in Grand Prairie, Texas. - Julio Cortez/AP

Texas’s vulnerable power grid: As Texas shivers under the freezing cold, ERCOT, which manages 90% of the state’s electric load, asked Texans to conserve energy both Monday and Tuesday mornings, expecting tight grid conditions. The request also asked all government agencies to reduce energy use at their facilities until at least Tuesday morning.

Big city snowless streaks could finally end: Snow from this storm will push across the mid-Atlantic Monday and across the Northeast late Monday through Tuesday. Around 1 to 3 inches of snow is possible across both regions. Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York City haven’t had an inch of snow fall in a single day in more than 700 days.

• Thousands of flights canceled: More than 3,100 flights within, into or out of the US were canceled on Monday, and more than 9,000 were delayed, according to flight-tracking site FlightAware.com

Schools close: Districts in more than half a dozen states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia announced closures amid the frigid temperatures.

How much snow and ice is expected

More than 70 million people are under winter weather alerts spread over 1,400 miles from parts of the Texas-Mexico border to southern New York.

The storm will lay down snow from Oklahoma to Virginia while ice falls to the south.

Snow totals of 2 to 4 inches were common from Sunday to Monday morning from Oklahoma through Tennessee and Kentucky. A few locations in Arkansas and Tennessee picked up 6 to 8 inches of snow by Monday afternoon. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear on Monday said a second round of “light to moderate snow” is expected through Tuesday morning mainly in eastern and southeastern Kentucky and urged residents to stay off the roads, warning temperatures were expected to remain “dangerously low.”

Totals will increase as snow continues to fall in parts of the Tennessee Valley Monday. In Tennessee’s Shelby County, Mayor Lee Harris declared a state of emergency after the community saw several inches of snow, he said on social media. Parts of the county saw 3 to 6 inches of snow, with temperatures plummeting to 9 degrees Monday evening, according to CNN Meteorologist Taylor Ward.

A person crosses Tennessee Street as snow falls Monday in downtown Florence, Alabama. - Dan Busey/The TimesDaily/AP
A person crosses Tennessee Street as snow falls Monday in downtown Florence, Alabama. - Dan Busey/The TimesDaily/AP

Meanwhile, a wintry mix of freezing rain and sleet targeted areas from Texas to Mississippi, unloading a glaze of ice and up to an inch of sleet on area roadways by Monday morning.

Memphis, which has had no measurable snow so far this year, picked up between 3 and 6 inches by Monday afternoon.

Heavy snow was expected over parts of the Central Rockies into Monday evening, and lake-effect snow was expected to persist downwind from the Great Lakes through Tuesday, according to the weather service.

Already, numerous cold daily records have been broken across the central US as the arctic blast moved toward the southern US. In Kansas City, Missouri, the temperature dropped to minus 3 degrees Sunday – smashing a previous record of 0 degrees set in 1979.

The storm will clear the South by late Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Oregon is still cleaning up after a potent winter storm accumulated three-quarters of an inch of ice in some cities and damaging winds resulted in widespread power outages over the weekend. More than 90,000 homes and businesses were without power Monday afternoon, according to the tracking site PowerOutage.us. Strong winds will continue to pound parts of the state Monday.

CNN Meteorologists Robert Shackelford, Sara Tonks, Brandon Miller and Monica Garrett and CNN’s Joe Sutton, Sarah Dewberry, Samantha Beech, Devon Sayers and Jaide Timm-Garcia contributed to this report.

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