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Arctic Outbreak Set to Freeze Much of Country

From Montana to Massachusetts and everywhere in between, a major intrusion of cold Arctic air will move in this week, leading to unusually cold temperatures for much of the country.

A winter storm impacting the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin on Monday is the leading edge of this cold air, and the winter-like temperatures will move south through Kansas City, St. Louis and Chicago on Tuesday, eventually making their way to Dallas, Atlanta, Nashville, Pittsburgh and Charlotte by Wednesday. The cold will in some cases be accompanied by strong winds, making wind chills in portions of the upper Midwest well below zero for the middle of the week.

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Denver – whose average high for this week is in the mid-50s – will most likely fail to reach 20º (!) on both Tuesday and Wednesday. Chicago (average high in the low 50s) may not hit the freezing mark Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. New York City will have a high temperature in the mid 60s on Tuesday, but that plummets to the low 40s for Friday’s high. And Billings, Montana, where residents enjoyed temperatures around 70º on Saturday afternoon, may see overnight lows dip to -15º on Wednesday night.

Perhaps the most striking element to the impending cold spell is the length of time it looks to stay cold in the East. After seeing their temperatures plummet on Monday, Denver could see below average readings well into next week and potentially beyond. Chicago looks to stay cold into next week, and the I-95 corridor will also be feeling the chill into the upcoming weekend and into the start of the following work week.

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A strong blocking pattern – almost identical to the one last year that brought a harsh winter to the Great Lakes and Northeast – with a ridge of high pressure in the West a massive dip in the jet stream in the East is responsible for this intrusion of Arctic air. The remnants of Super Typhoon Nuri in the Bering Sea are enhancing the dip in the jet stream, allowing even more cold air to spill down into the the U.S., and the pattern appears to be firmly entrenched into the weekend.

Stay warm and bundle up!

Meteorologist Chris Bianchi

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