Additional records for cold high temperatures were predicted Wednesday afternoon.
The Weather Service described the intensity of the cold as “comparable to the ‘Blue Norther’ of 1911” in which temperatures crashed from near 80 into the teens and 20s in the same day in some areas.
Much of the eastern United States witnessed colder weather than parts of Alaska on Wednesday morning, as the jet stream — which divides cold and warm air — seesawed. And more than 75 percent of Lower 48 states endured freezing temperatures.
The chill penetrated all the way to the Gulf Coast where the rush of frigid air over the warm waters gave rise to a plume of sea smoke.
Pensacola, Fla., set a record low of 29 degrees — 42 degrees colder than the adjacent Gulf of Mexico water temperature.
Temperatures fell as low as 13 degrees in central Alabama, where record lows were widespread. Weather.com noted many low temperatures in the Deep South were colder than any observed over the entirety of last winter.
In the Appalachian Mountains, temperatures plummeted into the single digits even as far south as the Mid-Atlantic. Snowshoe and Canaan Valley, ski areas in West Virginia, sank to 1 and 2 degrees. Mount Mitchell, N.C., also fell to just 1 degree. And on Mount Washington, N.H., the mercury plunged to minus-17, a record low for the date, and the fourth-coldest temperature on record during November on the soaring peak.
Temperatures were also impressively low in major cities. Among those setting record lows Wednesday morning? Atlantic City; Birmingham, Ala.; Buffalo; Burlington, Vt.; Charleston, S.C.; Cincinnati; Cleveland; Columbus, Ohio; Detroit; Indianapolis; Little Rock; Memphis; New York; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Providence, R.I.; Rochester, N.Y.; South Bend, Ind.; and Syracuse, N.Y.
Here are some particularly notable cold temperature milestones set since Tuesday:
- Chicago set records for both its high and low temperatures on Tuesday, 17 and 7 degrees. These high and low temperatures were both the coldest on record so early in the season.
- Milwaukee’s high of 19 degrees Tuesday was its coldest so early in the season.
- Nashville set a record low of 17 Wednesday morning, after a high of just 29 on Tuesday, its coldest high so early in the season on record.
- New York City’s low of 23 degrees Wednesday morning was its third record low in the past week. On Tuesday, it set a record low of 25 and, on Friday, it tied a record low of 29.
The cold was not confined to the Lower 48, but also chilled eastern Canada where numerous record lows (about 5 degrees Fahrenheit or minus-15 Celsius) were set Wednesday morning:
Abnormally cold weather has prevailed over the zone from the Mountain West to the Northeast for much of November. An index describing the severity of winterlike weather, based on both snow and cold, classified conditions as “extreme."
Some of the cities experiencing these extreme winter conditions include Buffalo; Detroit; Louisville; Nashville; Milwaukee; Chicago; Kansas City, Kan.; Des Moines; Minneapolis; Denver; and Boise, Idaho.
While the intensity of cold weather is forecast to ease somewhat in the coming days, temperatures will remain below normal over the eastern half of the nation through the weekend.
A milder weather regime may take hold around the second half of next week.