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Arctic air to drive cold deep into the Sunshine State and beyond

By Jake Sojda, AccuWeather, Accuweather.com

A rapidly intensifying storm that is projected to pound parts of the Eastern Seaboard with snow and wind this weekend will also unleash frigid air and send temperatures nosediving as far south as Cuba and the Bahamas.

Freezing temperatures could grip areas as far south as the Florida Everglades amid the bitter blast, putting records in jeopardy, AccuWeather forecasters warn. Farther to the north, those that will feel the effects of the storm will also endure icy air in its wake -- with dangerous consequences in some areas.

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The second half of January has already delivered some waves of cold air to the Southeast, including a couple of frosty nights that extended as far south as northern Florida. Freezing air will surge southward again, but with even more ferocity than any previous cold blast this year. In fact, temperatures could reach the lowest levels in years across some parts of the Southeast.

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The cold air will settle into the Southeast from Friday night into Sunday. Temperatures from Mississippi to Georgia and upstate South Carolina will slip into the 20s F Friday night and will be stuck in the 30s for daytime highs Saturday. However, Saturday night is when temperatures in most of the region will take the biggest plunge.

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The daily record low for Jan. 30 in Orlando is 31 degrees set back in 1966. Low temperatures will at least challenge that reading by dawn Sunday in Orlando, and many outlying areas around the city will plummet into the upper 20s F. This can threaten much of the citrus crop in the region. Even Miami could have temperatures drop into the 30s, threatening the record for Jan. 30 of 39 degrees also set on the date in 1966.

Marathon, Fla., in the Florida Keys, could fall into the upper 40s Saturday night. Marathon has only fallen below 50 degrees six times in the past 10 years, most recently on Jan. 22, 2020.

The cold won't stop there as it will even make its way into parts of the Caribbean. High temperatures ranging from around 80 to around 90 Friday across Cuba will be replaced with highs in the 60s and lower 70s Sunday. In Havana, Cuba's capital city that lies along the northwestern coast of the island, the high will reach 79 Friday before dipping to 65 Sunday. The normal high for late January is 79 F.

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Back across the United States in areas that lie farther north, the air will be even more bitter. Temperatures across much of Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas will crash into the teens. The last time the temperature in Atlanta dropped below 20 degrees was on Jan. 18 of 2018. Even locales as far south as Tallahassee, Florida, could flirt with temperatures in the upper teens Saturday night.

Along with threatening cold-sensitive crops, temperatures plummeting this far below freezing can also cause pipes to freeze.

Despite plenty of sunshine expected during the day Sunday, high temperatures will still struggle to rebound. Orlando is forecast to be stuck in the mid-50s for a high temperature Sunday, while Miami may just barely reach 60 degrees, which is around 15 degrees below normal for each city.

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In Atlanta, Saturday is forecast to be the coldest day of the weekend, with high temperatures failing to get out of the 30s. The normal high temperature in Atlanta in late January is around 55 degrees.

The bitter cold following this coastal storm will also arrive across much of the East Coast Saturday night. Low temperatures will be in the teens Saturday night from New Jersey to much of the Carolinas. Raleigh and Charlotte, N.C., could be nearly as cold as Philadelphia and New York City Saturday night, with temperatures crashing into the teens.

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Low temperatures in the single digits will extend through much of the Appalachians into New England, with temperatures plummeting below zero across some interior portions of New England into New York.

While not the coldest night of the year for most in terms of temperatures in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, winds could still be whipping behind the departing storm, sending AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures tumbling to dangerous levels for those outside that are not dressed adequately.

If some areas in the Northeast have a mix of snow and rain from the storm that cause wet and slushy areas, the crashing temperatures Saturday night could cause these areas to quickly freeze solid. In any areas where coastal flooding occurs in the Northeast, the flooded areas could also quickly turn icy.

Fortunately, for those not keen on cold weather, the Arctic burst won't last long and may actually signal the end of the relatively cold stretch the eastern United States has been enduring.

"Following this storm at the end of January, we will actually see the pattern change in the East to start February. More rounds of warm air will surge north during the first part of February," AccuWeather lead long-range meteorologist Paul Pastelok said. "There will still be some cold shots as well, as the warmth and cold will swing back and forth, but we shouldn't see the sustained cold or widespread below-zero temperatures like [we did during] the second half of January."

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