An arctic blast that threatens 32 million people will knock out power by coating parts of the South and Midwest with ice and send temperatures sinking by as much as 50 degrees Thursday, forecasters warned.
Bone-numbing air gripped the center of the country Thursday, bringing sub-zero temperatures to the north and sleet as far south as central Texas, forecasters said.
The worst of the ice storm should stretch from Texas through Arkansas, the boot heel of Missouri and parts of Tennessee and Kentucky. Some places could get a half-inch or more of ice, enough to weigh down power lines and snap tree branches.
The frigid temperatures in the Upper Midwest were expected to hang around through the weekend, with highs forecast in the single digits and wind chills driving the ‘feels-like’ temperatures into double digits below zero.
Kevin Roth, a lead meteorologist at The Weather Channel, said that the region faced a “good 12 to 14 hours of freezing rain and ice” as an arctic air mass pushing south from Canada collides with moisture streaming up from the Gulf of Mexico.
Weather.com said the storm should bring an icy mix of freezing rain and sleet form West Texas into the Ozarks and expand across the Ohio Valley Thursday into Friday. Cold and freezing rain were forecast for the East and Southeast as the storm moves through.
Colorado homeless shelters opened extra beds as temperatures in Denver were expected to drop just below zero through Friday but remain below 20 through the middle of next week. The storm dumped several inches of snow in Denver, and parts of Colorado’s mountains could get up to 3 feet by the end of the day.
Chicago could plunge from the mid-50s on Wednesday to the low teens by Friday night. Snow accumulations of 4 to 8 inches are possible from southern Missouri to northern Ohio through Friday night.
The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul received about 6 inches of snow Wednesday but in Two Harbors, north of Duluth along Lake Superior, about 3 feet of snow fell.
In North Dakota, the bitter cold predicted ranged from minus 9 degrees in Missoula to minus 27 in Butte and Shelby. In Montana, the cold spot will be the northern city of Havre, with low temperatures expected to dip as low as minus 30 between Thursday and Saturday.
National Weather Service meteorologist Dave Bernhardt told The Associated Press the last extended cold period in Montana he could recall was in the winter of 1996.
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