U.S. cold snap expected to endure |

U.S. cold snap expected to endure

Brace yourself, folks: The big chill that’s covering most of the country is here to stay — at least well into next week.

“We’re locked into a below-normal weather pattern for at least the next week or so, perhaps even up to the 10-day time frame,” said AccuWeather meteorologist Tom Kines.

From a blizzard in Oregon to arctic cold in Denver to lake-effect snow in the Great Lakes and a hard freeze along the Gulf Coast, two-thirds of America is enduring a freakish cold snap.

In addition, sleet and light snow fell before dawn over portions of west and middle Tennessee. In Memphis, a thin sheet of white covered the windshields of parked vehicles and left some highways and overpasses icy. Officially, the city picked up 0.1 inch of snow, the earliest the city has ever received snow, the National Weather Service reported.

“Temperatures associated with the cold air mass will be 20 to near 40 degrees below average from east of the Rockies to the Mississippi Valley,” the weather service said.

In Erie, emergency responders, police and firefighters responded to scores of traffic accidents on roads Thursday afternoon as heavy lake-effect snow bands caused hazardous driving conditions.

Residents in the Northwest braced for significant travel problems and disruptions through Friday along the Interstate 84 corridor in Oregon, Washington and Idaho because of a storm AccuWeather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski calls “highly unusual” for this time of year.

A blizzard warning is in effect for the Columbia River gorge region between Oregon and Washington, where up to a foot of snow is forecast and ferocious winds will whip up as high as 55 mph.

In Denver, Thursday morning’s low of minus-14 degrees smashed the record for the date, set at minus-3 degrees in 1916. That occurs a day after the mile-high city’s high temperature Wednesday reached just 6 degrees, a whopping 47 degrees below the average high of 53 degrees for this time of year.

Looking to escape the cold? You might consider a trip to Barrow, Alaska. Temperatures in that tiny town on the edge of the Arctic Ocean reached a balmy 31 degrees Wednesday, 24 degrees above normal. But visitors should note one disclaimer: Barrow has only about three hours of daylight right now, and that only will decrease until total darkness descends for two months starting Nov. 20.

The wild contrast in temperatures is related: The unusually curvy jet stream is pulling warm air into Alaska and arctic chill down into the 48 contiguous states.

Elsewhere, morning lows plunged well below zero Thursday across Montana, Wyoming, northeastern and central Colorado, and the western parts of Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota, WeatherBug reported. A minus-24 low temperature was recorded in Rawlins, Wyo.

In the Deep South and along the Gulf Coast, freeze watches and warnings are in place all the way from Houston to Tallahassee, Fla. Temperatures could bottom out Thursday night in the 20s, which may kill crops and other sensitive plants.

Meanwhile, lake-effect snow will continue to bury areas around all five of the Great Lakes. In northern Michigan, the additional snowfall will just pile on top of the 2-3 feet the region received from a huge snowstorm earlier in the week. Snow will fly in Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York state.

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