February 24, 2024

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  • A blast of arctic cold air is plunging into the U.S.
  • It will penetrate into the South by this weekend, and could drop temps below freezing for several days in a row.
  • Several daily cold records will be in jeopardy.
  • Dangerously cold wind chills are also expected, especially in the Northern Plains and Rockies.
  • This generally colder pattern could hang on until the last full week of January or longer.

A​n arctic cold outbreak will deliver record-setting, frigid air to parts of the country, including the Deep South through Wednesday. Daily records for mid-January could be broken from Washington state to the Gulf Coast.

W​hen It Will Happen: T​he first plunge of cold air already surged south through the Plains. A reporting station near Raynesford, Montana, plunged to minus 43 degrees Friday morning. Watson Lake, British Columbia, Canada, plunged to minus 57 degrees.

Dickinson, North Dakota, registered a minus 66 degree wind chill early Saturday morning. Even more brutal, Lupin, in Canada’s Northwest Territories measured a minus 77 degree wind chill Saturday morning, with a 40 mph wind accompanying temperatures in the minus 30s.

(​CURRENT MAP TRACKERS: Temperatures | Wind Chills)

An even stronger cold blast is now surging south through the Plains and Midwest this weekend, before working its way toward the Southeast and finally the East Coast Wednesday.

(Further beef up your forecast with our detailed, hour-by-hour breakdown for the next 8 days – only available on our Premium Pro experience.)

This animation shows how far below average low temperatures are forecast each day through next Friday. The brightest pink contours indicate where low temperatures are expected to be farthest below average for this time of year.

H​ow Cold It Will Get: During the coldest days of the outbreak…

  • L​ows in the 20s, perhaps teens, will occur along the northern Gulf Coast, from East Texas to North Florida.
  • T​eens, perhaps a few single digit-lows, are expected in the Deep South.
  • Below-zero low temperatures could occur as far south as parts of the Texas Panhandle, Oklahoma and northern Arkansas.
  • L​ows in the minus 20s are possible as far south as Iowa and Nebraska.
  • S​ome lows in Montana will reach minus 40 degrees.

Daily records – coldest for the calendar day – are possible from Washington to Wyoming this weekend, then in parts of the Plains and Deep South, Monday through Wednesday.

A​mong the notables, Chicago’s O’Hare Airport could plunge to the minus teens for the first time since the January 2019 cold outbreak, and could fail to rise above zero during the day Monday and/or Tuesday. Oklahoma City could plunge below zero for the first time since the historic February 2021 cold outbreak. That said, we don’t expect this outbreak to match the ferocity of either the January 2019 or February 2021 outbreaks.

(​FORECAST DETAILS: 10-Day U.S. Highs and Lows)

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Wind Chill Danger: Strong winds will also accompany the arctic air. Those winds will combine with the cold to produce dangerous wind chills in the Rockies, Plains and Midwest.

Some wind chills in the Northern Plains could drop into the minus 40s, 50s even 60s, at times, which could lead to frostbite on any exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes.

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H​ow Long It Will Last: In many of these areas, the coldest air will be either through this weekend or during the first half of MLK week. P​arts of the South, including Oklahoma City, Dallas and Nashville, could see several days in a row with daytime highs below freezing.

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Y​et another blast of cold air is now expected into many of these same areas late week that would last into the weekend of Jan. 20-21.

B​eyond that, some moderating of the cold air is possible, especially in the northern U.S., during the week of Jan. 22.

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W​hy It’s So Cold: There are several reasons for this powerhouse cold outbreak.

F​irst, blocking high pressure aloft near Greenland and the Canadian Arctic is forcing cold air out of Canada deep into the U.S., a common pattern for outbreaks in winter.

That cold air will be kept refrigerated by ample, widespread snowpack over the U.S. thanks to the recent siege of winter storms.

A​nd this is all happening around what is typically the coldest time of winter.

T​his is a stunning reversal of a pattern that lead to America’s record warmest December in 129 years and the least Christmas snow cover in 20 years.

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Jonathan Erdman is a senior meteorologist at weather.com and has been covering national and international weather since 1996. His lifelong love of meteorology began with a close encounter with a tornado as a child in Wisconsin. He studied physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, then completed his Master’s degree working with dual-polarization radar and lightning data at Colorado State University. Extreme and bizarre weather are his favorite topics. Reach out to him on X (formerly Twitter), Threads, Facebook and Bluesky.

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.