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Severe cold snap to follow winter storm in central U.S.

By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather.com
Frigid weather, combined with snow that has melted in the middle of the country, could create hazardous conditions. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
Frigid weather, combined with snow that has melted in the middle of the country, could create hazardous conditions. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 1 (UPI) --

A blast of frigid air will continue to sweep southeastward over the central United States in the wake of a winter storm through the balance of this weekend, and AccuWeather meteorologists say it will feel 60, 70 and even 80 degrees Fahrenheit lower when compared to recent weeks.

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The cold air, appropriate for the dead of winter, will bring the risk of frostbite and hypothermia for those spending time outdoors and not properly dressed.

During Saturday morning, temperatures climbed into the 80s over parts of Georgia, while readings of 10 to 30 degrees below zero were gripping North Dakota with an extreme temperature range of up to 110 degrees.

This map shows AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures as of 10 a.m. CST on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022.

In stark contrast to much of the past month, seriously cold air was pushing southward across the Plains on Saturday and is forecast to sweep eastward over portions of the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys, as well as the Great Lakes region into the start of the new week.

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Chicago finished December with temperatures averaging 7.5 degrees above the normal of 31.5 degrees and in sixth place on the all-time list of warm Decembers that date to the mid-1800s. As the cold air settles in, temperatures will dip to 10-20 degrees below average.

Following temperatures peaking in the 60s F over many areas of Kansas and Oklahoma on Friday, temperatures had plummeted into the teens and single digits on New Year's Day.

In Wichita, Kansas, where temperatures were hovering in the lower 60s late Friday afternoon but had crashed through the 20s and into the teens in a little more than 12 hours by Saturday morning with AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures approaching 10 below zero.

Following highs in the 70s and 80s F on Friday, temperatures will take the plunge by as much as 40 degrees over much of Texas and Louisiana this weekend.

The change will be quite a shock following the warmest December on record at Oklahoma City that topped 1965's 48.7 degrees. Dec. 2021 averaged 50.7 degrees.

"The flash freeze had turned roads and sidewalks into a skating rink around Wichita, Kansas, Saturday morning," AccuWeather meteorologist Joe Bauer said, adding that people should be prepared for similar conditions where precipitation occurs with the storm in parts of the Central states.

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A temperature plunge and freeze-up of equal magnitude is forecast to expand across the middle Mississippi Valley and Midwest in the wake of a storm bringing heavy snow, a wintry mix and drenching rain.

Because of the warm state of the ground in parts of northern Missouri, Iowa, the southern parts of Wisconsin and Michigan, as well as the northern parts of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, snow that manages to fall from the storm will initially melt on city streets, only to freeze as the temperature plunge associated with Arctic air sweeps eastward.

This will be a major reality check of just how nasty January can be following benign temperatures over much of the Midwest during December, AccuWeather senior meteorologist Brett Anderson said.

Around Chicago and many other cities in parts of the Central Plains and Great Lakes region, where enough snow to shovel and plow is in store from the storm into Saturday night, areas of slush and standing water will freeze in the storm's wake.

Road crews and property owners are urged to promptly remove the snow and treat surfaces, otherwise, the ice that forms will be extremely difficult to remove.

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People heading home from their holiday ventures on Sunday or back to work and school on Monday morning from parts of Kansas and Nebraska to Michigan and northern Ohio should be prepared for areas of ice and hard-packed snow.

"For much of the central Plains and Midwest, the weather from Sunday to Monday will represent the coldest air of the season so far," Anderson said.

While a significant temperature dip occurred during the first week or so in December and a respectable chill settled over part of the North Central states ahead of the storm, this new batch of Arctic air will surpass that level but a substantial margin.

Temperatures are forecast to bottom out around 5 below zero in Omaha, Nebraska, on Sunday morning, or nearly 15 degrees lower than the last few days of December.

Farther to the east, a low in the lower single digits is in store for Chicago on Monday morning that is likely to surpass the prior low mark of 13 on Dec. 7, by about 10 degrees.

Much colder air is forecast to settle across many areas being targeted by severe weather this weekend as well and a weak trailing storm can even bring a bit of snow to parts of Tennessee and Kentucky on Sunday.

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Even though milder Pacific air is expected to sweep eastward at midweek and relieve parts of the northern and central Plains of their Arctic air, the cold air may be more reluctant to leave farther to the east over the Midwest and in the South Central states.

Temperatures will rise into the 40s over portions of the northern and central Plains on Monday and Tuesday, while temperatures struggle to reach the mid-30s around Chicago on Tuesday.

Another sweep of cold air will follow during the middle and latter part of the week and that could set the stage for a stripe of snow that includes portions of the central Plains and the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys toward the end of the week as a storm swings out of the Rockies.

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