Brutal cold roaring into central, eastern U.S.

11:35 PM, Jan 21, 2013   |    comments
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By Doyle Rice, USA TODAY

Some of the coldest air in four years has plunged into the Midwest and will spread to the 50 million people living in the Northeast by Tuesday, where temperatures are forecast to remain below freezing throughout the day.

Frigid temperatures and gusty winds brought wind-chill values down to 25 to 50 degrees below zero Monday morning across the upper Midwest.

The wind chill bottomed out at -51 in Langdon, N.D., early Monday morning, thanks to a temperature of -22 degrees combined with a wind of 17 mph, reports Weather Underground meteorologist Jeff Masters.

This level of wind chill can lead to "dangerous outdoor conditions, including the threat for frostbite and possibly hypothermia or death," warned the National Weather Service.

Exposed skin can freeze in 10 minutes or less when wind chills are colder than 30 degrees below zero.

Monday afternoon, wind chill advisories and warnings were in place all the way from North Dakota to North Carolina, a distance of more than 1,000 miles.

The temperature in Des Moines on Monday morning of -2 degrees ended a record-setting streak by dropping below zero for the first time in 710 days, the weather service reported.

In Minneapolis, Monday's forecast high of -3 degrees will likely be the first day with a subzero high temperature in just over four years; the last one was Jan. 15, 2009, according to Weather Channel meteorologist Nick Wiltgen. The city, notorious for its frigid winters, has never recorded such a long spell without a subzero high in 141 years of record keeping.

Fortunately for the hundreds of thousands of people outdoors in Washington, D.C., for the inauguration on Monday, the arctic blast had not moved in by midday. The relatively mild noontime temperature of 40 degrees was 16 degrees warmer than Tuesday's forecast high and 12 degrees warmer than Obama's first inauguration four years ago.

By midafternoon, the temperature in Washington had risen to 46 degrees, very nice weather for the Inaugural parade.

With the jet stream blasting straight south out of northern Canada, cold air will flood the eastern two-thirds of the country by Tuesday and Wednesday.

Wiltgen reports that all cities along the I-95 corridor from Boston to Washington will see highs in the 20s Tuesday. Single digits and teens for highs are likely from northern New England to western New York and western Pennsylvania. These cold temperatures will stay in place across the Northeast into Wednesday, he adds.

Wind chill advisories and warnings were in place in 16 states as of Monday afternoon as far south as Boone, N.C.

In addition to the bitter cold, lake-effect snow will fly downwind of the Great Lakes. Lake-effect snow warnings have been posted from Cleveland to Buffalo. Some locations downwind of Lake Erie could see 20 inches of snow by Tuesday night, according to AccuWeather.

Contributing: Regina Zilbermints, Des Moines Register

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