A large Arctic air mass is pushing across the U.S. keeping millions of Americans in the deep freeze. It's part of a nationwide polar plunge, with snow, ice and cold temperatures expected in nearly every corner of the country. Charlie Demar reports.
JEFF GLOR: A large arctic air mass is pushing across the country, keeping hundreds of millions of Americans in the deep freeze this weekend. Snow started falling in Seattle Friday, and there could be up to a half a foot of accumulation by the time it's over, passing the city's average annual snowfall in less than a day. It's part of a nationwide polar plunge with snow, ice, and cold temperatures expected in nearly every corner of the country.
Charlie De Mar begins our coverage in Chicago. Charlie, good morning.
CHARLIE DE MAR: Jeff, good morning from a frozen-over Chicago. As you can see, the snow already coming down. You can't even make it out, but behind me, Lake Michigan also covered in snow and icy. On top of these below-freezing temperatures, it's this brutal cold that is making it just unbearable for so much of the country. And for parts of the country that aren't used to seeing these conditions, well, they'll be getting a taste this weekend.
Get ready for America's roadways to look a lot like this this weekend. A coast-to-coast storm is howling across the country with nearly half of all Americans in its path.
LINA HIDALGO: This is a historic cold spell that has the potential of causing tremendous disruption to our region.
CHARLIE DE MAR: In Texas, they're treating this arctic blast and incoming storm with the same seriousness as a hurricane, and for good reason. An ice storm earlier in the week caused this 130-vehicle pileup which killed at least six people.
Across the plains, temperatures are below zero, and that's before you factor in the windchill. It can feel as cold as 30 to 40 below when the winds start to blow. Drivers in usually rainy Seattle are getting a grip on how to handle snow, while flyers are simply trying to get away.
- Largo, Florida. You know why?
- Tell me.
- Because it's 81 degrees there. Not here.
CHARLIE DE MAR: Plow trucks at Seattle-Tacoma Airport ready to roll.
KATE HUDSON: We have more than 45 pieces of equipment for snow and ice maintenance. We have, like, thousands of gallons of anti-ice fluid, and I literally mean tons of sand when I say tons of sand.
CHARLIE DE MAR: While plow trucks are revving up, delivery drivers are planning on playing it safe as they drop off Valentine's Day flowers in the midst of this wintry weather.
- We prepare them ahead of time. Like, OK, the snow starts to get slick, you know, pull over.
CHARLIE DE MAR: Now, along with Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana all declaring states of emergency for this winter weather, less than ideal conditions for Mardi Gras. Dana.
DANA JACOBSON: Charlie, thank you. A-plus effort in articulating in that cold weather. Go get warm.