Intrusion of Arctic air to kick off prolonged stretch of bitter cold in eastern US

·5 min read

The days may be getting longer again as the calendar gets deeper in January, but AccuWeather forecasters say Old Man Winter is about to send a long-lasting reminder to the eastern U.S. that spring is still a long way off, and for some, temperatures could plummet lower than they have in years.

Arctic cold has made appearances in the East already this month. Temperatures in New York City's Central Park bottomed out at 10 degrees Fahrenheit on both Jan. 15 and 16, which is nearly 20 degrees below normal for mid-January. Washington, D.C., reached 17 degrees for a low temperature on Jan. 16. Parts of the interior Northeast have gotten even more dangerously cold. Pittsburgh recorded its lowest temperature so far this season on Jan. 8, when the mercury dipped to 6 F. In Albany, New York, temperatures dropped below zero twice, reaching 3 below zero on Jan. 15 and 4 below zero Fahrenheit on Jan. 16.

Across the South, winter's harsh cold has also made its presence known at times. On Jan. 7, Atlanta hit only 41 degrees for a high temperature, 13 degrees below normal for the date. That night, the mercury dropped to 28. Even Biloxi, Mississippi, situated right against the warm Gulf of Mexico, has fallen below freezing once this month when temperatures reached 30 degrees on Jan. 4.

In most of these instances, however, the Arctic cold was fleeting, with temperatures quickly rebounding toward normal for January in the days that followed and, in some instances, even swinging above normal. AccuWeather forecasters warn that's about to change, as a storm set to deliver another round of snow to parts of the South and mid-Atlantic will usher in another Arctic blast, this time with plenty of staying power.

The cold will waste no time in upping the ante. Temperatures will plummet from the Northeast into the Tennessee Valley Friday morning as strong, Arctic high pressure moves in. Some cities will challenge their lowest temperatures of the season.

The Arctic push will continue Friday through the rest of the Southeast and East Coast and will also help to fuel a snow and ice storm for parts of the South and Atlantic coast. From Friday night through the weekend, the coldest night of the season so far can occur for many interior areas in the Southeast, and some areas in the interior Northeast can have their coldest night in years.

By dawn on Saturday, temperatures are forecast to dip below zero Fahrenheit across a large swath of the Northeast, from eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania through much of upstate New York and into the mountains of interior New England. For many, this would be the coldest night in at least a couple of years.

Pittsburgh is forecast to dip to near zero Friday night. If the temperature manages to dip a bit more, it would be the first reading below zero since Jan. 31, 2019. In Syracuse, New York, the low temperature is forecast to challenge the record for the day of 12 below zero, set back in 2005. The last time Syracuse dropped lower than 10 below zero was Jan. 14, 2018.


Meteorologists say that inadequately protected pipes could freeze in homes and neighborhoods. Any wet and slushy areas from melting during the middle of the week will freeze solid again as temperatures fall to levels that render standard road and sidewalk salt nearly ineffective.

However, winter outdoor enthusiasts, such as ice fishermen, may look forward to the upcoming freeze, and many bodies of water may develop ice thick enough to safely fish on. Currently, the ice coverage on the Great Lakes stands at 14.9%, well below the average of about 20% for this time of year, but it is also the highest percentage at this point in the season since 2018.

Cities along the Interstate 95 corridor may be spared from such extreme cold thanks in part to clouds from a storm passing off the coast. Temperatures in places like Boston, New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., will still challenge some of the lowest temperatures recorded yet this season, however, and gusty winds near the coast courtesy of the coastal storm will further drive down AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures.

Friday morning may be the coldest morning of the next few for several big cities and the best chance to rival the coldest morning of the season so far. Washington, D.C., is forecast to reach a low of 20, challenging the lowest temperature this season so far of 17. Central Park in New York is forecast to fall to 13, challenging its lowest reading so far of 10 degrees.

In Atlanta, Sunday morning is forecast to bring the most bitter cold, with temperatures crashing into the mid-20s, the lowest since mid-February of last winter. Widespread low temperatures in the 30s will occur in interior portions of the Florida Peninsula, and some spots are likely to have frosty conditions away from the coast. Some citrus growers and those with any other sensitive plants may need to take precautions against frosty conditions.

While temperatures may rebound a bit by the end of this weekend into early next week, AccuWeather forecasters say the lower-than-average temperatures will likely persist through the end of the month. Many locales in the interior Northeast could fail to rise above freezing again for the duration of January.

The risk of frosts and freezes will likely return multiple times in the South as well, near the Gulf Coast and into the Florida Peninsula as storms continue to track through the East and drive reinforcing colder air south in their wake.

"Heating demands across much of the northern Plains and East will continue to remain high through at least the end of January and perhaps into the first couple of days of February," said AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok. The cold may finally ease by the time Punxsutawney Phil emerges from his burrow on Feb. 2.

For the latest weather news check back on Watch the AccuWeather Network on DIRECTV, Frontier, Spectrum, fuboTV, Philo, and Verizon Fios. AccuWeather Now is now available on your preferred streaming platform.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting