Meteorological powers long considered hostile by area inhabitants deployed a formidable array of snow squalls, high winds and the coldest winter temperatures of the season in the Washington region last night and today.

Forecasters at the National Weather Service in Washington called for an invasion of zero-to-10-degree weather last night, and issued a special bulletin warning pet owners to take pity and bring their pets inside.

Residents girded for familiar battles with cracked engine blocks and frozen pipes.

The National Weather Service is predicting temperatures in the mid-teens today, with the mercury falling to 6 degrees in outlying areas tonight, and continued cold through Wednesday. There is a 10 percent chance of snow, and winds out of the northwest gusting to 30 mph are expected.

The suburbs will be as much as 10 degrees colder because the asphalt and concrete of the city stores thermal energy, forming what weather experts call a heat island.

As the cold front moved through the area Saturday afternoon, the barometer began to rise and wind-whipped snow swirled briefly out of the overcast sky. By 5 p.m. the temperature had dropped to 28 degrees at National Airport. Gusts up to 36 mph blew out of the northwest, creating a wind-chill effect of minus 5 degrees.

"We're getting a high-pressure system from Western Canada that contains cold arctic air," said National Weather Service forecaster Bob Werner. "It's normal in January to get frequent outbreaks of arctic air."

Forecasters do not expect the temperature to drop below the record for Jan. 10, minus 3 degrees in 1875.