An Arctic air mass responsible for the lowest temperatures of the season so far in parts of the Midwest and East will run its course this weekend, but more waves of frigid air will follow, along with threats of snow and slippery travel conditions, AccuWeather meteorologists say.
Energy demands will remain high due to the extreme cold, and motorists and airline passengers should anticipate periodic delays from snow and icy conditions in the weather pattern.
"This is typically the coldest time of the year, so when there is an air mass such as this producing temperatures well below average, it is really, really cold," AccuWeather Chief On-Air Meteorologist Bernie Rayno said. Normal lows for mid-January range from near zero F across the northern tier of the Midwest and Northeast to the low 40s along the Interstate 10 corridor of the Southern states.
Actual temperatures as of 8 a.m. EST, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. (AccuWeather)
Due to the combination of snow cover, Arctic air, light winds and a clear sky, temperatures plummeted to levels of 20 to 30 degrees below average across the Midwest and Northeast Thursday night. At Odgensburg, New York, located in the northern part of the state near the Canada border, the temperature bottomed out at 33 degrees below zero Friday morning. In the village of Saranac Lake, New York, a low of 30 below zero surpassed the season-low mark set on Jan. 16, which was 28 below zero.
The frigid conditions did not let up Friday night as temperatures continued to plummet in the eastern U.S. and Canada. In Causapscal, Quebec just north of New Brunswick, saw the mercury tumble to 38 below zero early Saturday morning. Meanwhile, in Smethport, Pennsylvania, a bone-chilling low of 23 below zero was measured.
Multiple sites in the Midwest blew past their season-low temperature marks Friday morning. Mason City, Iowa, crashed to 21 below zero, while the mercury in Iron Mountain, Michigan, dropped to 24 below zero and the temperature in Merrill, Wisconsin, plummeted to 28 below zero. At this level, despite nearly calm conditions, even taking the dog for a brisk walk or jog can create enough chill on exposed skin to risk frostbite in a matter of minutes, forecasters say.
Even though temperatures are predicted to moderate slightly across the Midwest, another cold night arrived for the Northeast on Friday, and the cold air may rival season lows in the South Central and Southeast states this weekend.
Meanwhile, nearly 800 miles to the southeast in Raleigh, North Carolina, temperatures dipped into the upper teens, and, early Saturday morning, it surpassed the season-low mark of 21 degrees set on Jan 8. A fresh blanket of snow from a storm on Friday night will help temperatures drop across parts of the Carolinas and southern Virginia. Not all of the snow and ice cover from the storm at the end of this week is expected to melt in the sun this weekend. Untreated wet and slushy areas will freeze at night, according to AccuWeather meteorologists.
Farther south, Jacksonville, Florida, is forecast to at least equal its winter low mark of 30 degrees during a couple of nights this weekend. Sunshine during the daytime over the bare ground may take some of the chill out of the air, with highs trending from the mid-40s, or around 20 below average, on Saturday afternoon to the mid- to upper 50s, which is about 10 degrees below average by Sunday afternoon.
Some of the subtle temperature moderation forecast for the Midwest and Northeast this weekend will be associated with the effects of an Alberta clipper storm. That moisture-starved system originating from western Canada will produce a band of snow from the Dakotas and Minnesota on Saturday to Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and western Pennsylvania on Sunday.
Snow from this fast-moving storm will generally be light with AccuWeather forecasters calling for a coating to an inch or two in most places with a few spots potentially picking up 3 or 4 inches of powdery snow this weekend. Minneapolis has a shot at picking up 3 inches of snow from the storm, while the Chicago metro area can expect 2-4 inches, and the Indianapolis metro area is generally likely to pick up an inch or less.
It is possible that a little snow or some flurries from this storm are able to make the trip over the central Appalachians and reach part of the mid-Atlantic coast later Sunday. If so, a spotty accumulation could occur in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City.
As the fast-moving clipper system moves into the Northeast, another storm with the same characteristics will move across the Upper Midwest Sunday and Sunday night. An additional 1 to 3 inches of snow could fall from Bismarck, North Dakota, to Minneapolis and Chicago.
A second clipper will race across the Great Lakes into the Northeast Monday into Tuesday. Once again, snow may be light with this feature, unless the system is able to tap some moisture drifting from the Gulf of Mexico along its travels.
Communities from the Great Lakes region to interior portions of the Northeast are set to pick up a quick 1 to 3 inches of snow with the highest accumulations occurring across the Appalachians, Adirondacks and Green mountains, where the AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 7 inches could occur. Even a light accumulation on roadways could cause slippery conditions for motorists and pedestrians.
Unlike the clipper during this weekend, a second storm will track along the Gulf Coast region early next week. Some of that moisture could be drawn northward enough to allow for a better chance of patchy snow to reach coastal areas of the Northeast and perhaps the interior South. There is also a more remote chance for the two storms to merge together into a stronger system upon reaching the Atlantic coast later Tuesday to Wednesday. Should this occur, more substantial snow or a wintry mix may unfold over the mid-Atlantic and in New England.
Although motorists may be able to sweep the snow off their vehicles easily, the cold conditions will cause much of the snow that falls to adhere to roads. The farther below freezing the temperature drops, the less effective inexpensive ice melting compounds such as rock salt become.
"With the clipper storms into next week over the Midwest and interior Northeast, the extremely cold ground and the cold air itself will lead to very slippery to treacherous conditions at times, even with small amounts of snow," AccuWeather Meteorologist Dean DeVore said.
Another significant discharge of Arctic air is likely across the Midwest and East that may once again rival season-low temperatures, forecasters say. Lows are projected to dip well below zero over the Upper Midwest and the northern tier of the Northeast with the potential for lows in the teens and 20s over the interior Southeast.
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