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Southern US storm ushering in frigid air, ice and snow could halt travel

A dramatic southward push of Arctic air into the eastern two-thirds of the country this week will result in bitterly cold conditions with temperatures trending 20-40 degrees Fahrenheit below typical mid-January values. For some areas, the brisk weather into this week will be the coldest conditions observed since December of 2022.

At the start of the week, daytime temperatures hovered just above zero F at Oklahoma City, dipped to the single digits in northwestern Arkansas and plummeted to the low teens in Dallas.

Meanwhile, locations farther north into the central and northern Plains will continue to bear the brunt of the frigid conditions, with daytime temperatures not even surpassing zero degrees early this week.

"Residents of the region will want to keep cold-weather gear handy to reduce the risk of frostbite and hypothermia. The bitter cold could threaten livestock as well as individuals who do not have proper shelter or heating," cautioned AccuWeather Meteorologist Joseph Bauer.

Communities along the Gulf coast and into the Tennessee Valley will also endure brisk temperatures this week. Cities such as Houston, Jackson, Mississippi, and Birmingham, Alabama, will dip into the 30s early this week during the daytime, with frigid overnight lows into the 10s or 20s.

Residents across the South are urged to ensure their homes are adequately prepped for the bitter cold. Wrapping any exposed pipes, disconnecting and covering exterior hose spigots and even leaving interior faucets on slightly to drip to avoid frozen or burst pipes.

Floridians will not miss out on the influx of chilly conditions, as they are expected to drop between 10 and 20 degrees from early to midweek. Temperatures will start with widespread 60s in the north to 80s in the south then fall to the upper 40s in the panhandle to lower 70s across the southern tip.

Cities such as Tallahassee, Florida, are projected to trend from a daytime high near 70 degrees on Monday to the upper 40s by Wednesday. Overnight temperatures can drop into the 20s and 30s across the northern third of the state during the first half of the week.

By late week, conditions are expected to turn warmer across Florida and closer to typical mid-January values. However, a new push of Arctic air coming this weekend may result in the lowest temperatures of the season so far for much of the Southeast states this weekend.

The amplified southward dip in the jet stream in place across the center of the nation will not only deliver waves of Arctic air this week that can challenge records across the Central states but also usher a stormy stretch across the Mississippi and Tennessee valleys.

This will be the first storm with snow and ice to extend its reach to the Southern states this season, which can pose an added challenge for travelers who are out of practice driving in the winter.

As of the midday hours on Monday, the storm deposited 0.5 to 1 inch of snow on Dallas, but farther to the east, a general 3-6 inches of snow was already on the ground from Little Rock, Arkansas, to Nashville.

From 1 to 6 inches of snow has already fallen from southeastern Kansas, eastern Oklahoma and northeastern Texas to central portions of Kentucky, Tennessee and northern Alabama. However, as the snow tapers off over the southern Plains and the lower part of the Mississippi Valley Monday evening, snow will ramp up and pile up over the southern Appalachians.

A corridor of 6-12 inches of snow can occur from eastern Tennessee into southern parts of West Virginia. The AccuWeather Local StormMax™ is 15 inches.

"Travel will be difficult in any areas that get freezing rain, sleet or snow, especially across overpasses and bridges as they will be the ones to ice up initially," explained AccuWeather Meteorologist Tyler Roys.

Forecasters say that following some snowflakes that started the day in parts of the mid-Atlantic on Monday, the main part of the storm and up to several inches of snow will fall Monday night to Tuesday in the Northeast.

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Areas of freezing rain extended from near Austin and San Antonio to Houston as of the midday hours on Monday. Even a thin coating of ice can create dangerous conditions for travelers and motorists are encouraged to stay off the roads if possible. Icy conditions along I-10 near Houston contributed to a number of accidents on Monday morning.

Ice accumulations on tree limbs and power lines can result in power outages across the affected region. As of Monday morning, more than 25,000 were in the cold and dark in Texas, according to poweroutage.us. Coupled with the dangerously cold air in place, power outages and the lack of a heating source could quickly create a hazardous situation for residents. Utility companies in the Southern states were urging customers to conserve to reduce the risk of blackouts.

The record-challenging temperatures expected to grip the region for the upcoming days can result in a spike in heating needs and subsequently put stress on the electrical grid.

"Any time cold waves are accompanied by snow or ice, the impact to people, businesses and the power grid can be substantially amplified," warned AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Jon Porter.

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