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Weekend cold blasts will dig deep over eastern U.S.


Two winter storms are yet again targeting the Northeast with snow later this week. But they’ll also pave the way for outbreaks of cold, Arctic air across the entire eastern U.S. through the weekend, and this time not even Florida will avoid the polar plunge.

Think of them as Valentine’s Day storms to warm — er, chill — your heart.

The first Arctic blast will push south starting in the upper Midwest on Thursday and Friday. The eastern U.S., all the way south into Florida, will be running anywhere from 10 to 30 degrees below normal in the first blast. Friday morning low temps will be in the single digits in the Midwest and Northeast. Upstate New York could even see below-zero lows on Friday morning. Lows in the teens and 20s will be widespread from the Ohio Valley to the Southeast.

While the northern tier will definitely get the worst of the cold, what’s most notable about these bursts of cold is how far south they’re expected to push. So far this winter, the cold outbreaks have mostly been limited to the Great Lakes and Northeast.

Temperatures in the Florida Panhandle are forecast to dip into the upper 20s on Friday morning — the coldest temperatures Florida has seen since early January. Saturday’s morning low in Miami will be a brisk 45 degrees, quite a bit chillier than their average Valentine’s Day low of 62 degrees.

The second of the two cold fronts, poised to push south into the U.S. starting Saturday, will likely be more powerful than the first, with temperatures running as lows as 30 degrees below normal far into the Southeast. The high temperature on Sunday seems unlikely to break above the freezing mark as far south as Atlanta, after morning lows in the teens.

If the forecast models are correct, this cold East-warm West pattern will continue through at least next week, and possibly beyond.

This “two countries” pattern is one that we’ve been seeing frequently since the fall, with a strong ridge of high pressure over western North America that forces cold, Arctic air to dive south into the eastern U.S.

The Climate Prediction Center’s six to 10 day outlook is grim both for the probability of colder than average temperatures in the East, but also for the forecast warmth in the West. In addition to above average temperatures, the ridging in the West also dampens any chance for beneficial, drought-busting rain in California.