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Polar plunge: Record low temperatures roll into Midwest, East behind snowstorm

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 1/21/2019 John Bacon and Doyle Rice
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High winds and brutally cold temperatures greeted brave souls armed with shovels digging out Monday from up to two feet of snow that fell across a wide swath of the nation.

"In some cases, temperatures may plummet 40 degrees," AccuWeather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.

The storm has been blamed for three deaths across the country.

Adding to the temperature troubles: Wind gusts of up to 50 mph capable of knocking down tree limbs and electrical lines and disrupting power.

Temperatures across the Northeast were forecast to dip about 20 degrees below average for the time of year. The entire state of Michigan was below zero early Monday, and the wind chill temperature in Rudyard dipped to 46 degrees below, the National Weather Service reported.

At wind chills that low, frostbite can occur in as little as 10 minutes.

Boston's high temperature for Monday was forecast to reach only about 9 degrees, ranking it among the 20 coldest January days ever recorded in a city that began keeping track of such things in 1872, weather.us meteorologist Ryan Maue said. 

a man riding a snowboard down a snow covered slope: Ben Jennings snowblows his driveway on Sunday, Jan. 20, in Glenville, N.Y., where 16 inches of snow fell from Saturday evening through noon Sunday. © Provided by USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Satellite Information Network, Inc. Ben Jennings snowblows his driveway on Sunday, Jan. 20, in Glenville, N.Y., where 16 inches of snow fell from Saturday evening through noon Sunday.

There were some gains for travelers in the skies. Nationwide, only about 315 flights had been canceled Monday and another 1,130 delayed as of 10 a.m. ET, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware.com. That's an improvement – more than 1,600 flights were canceled Sunday and another 2,165 on Saturday.

Sosnoski said some areas from Ohio to Maine could see snow drifts of up to 10 feet, and the severe blowing and drifting could limit travel and delay crews trying to dig out.

The highest snow total from the storm was the 29.2 inches that fell near Rochester, New York.

Newry, Maine, was digging out from 16 inches of snow Monday. But anyone out with a shovel was battling a wind chill of 21 degrees below zero and wind gusts of 20 mph.

“Roads cleared by accumulating snow during the storm may become blocked again due to extensive drifting snow in the storm's wake through Monday,” Sosnowski said.

More: 2 feet of snow, -40 F possible as storm roars East

More: 'Blockbuster' storm, then an Arctic blast will freeze 200 million.

Winds are expected to ease in the East on Tuesday, but the cold will remain. By then the Midwest will see a brief reprieve from the deadly cold, but it will be short-lived. And the next wave of cold will bring more storms to the battered region.

A significant amount of snow is forecast for parts of Nebraska to Wisconsin. Chicago should see a wintry mix, but up to 8 inches was forecast for Waterloo, Iowa. 

By Wednesday, mild temperatures and rain could lead to flooding of rivers and streams particularly in the Mid Atlantic region, the weather service warned.

Long term, the forecast is for winter to be wintry.

"The cold shot and warmup will be brief," AccuWeather said.  "We expect longer-duration cold blasts and less pronounced warmups during the latter part of January and into the first part of February," AccuWeather long-range meteorologist Max Vido said.

The cold may continue even longer: "I would expect the relatively cold pattern to last at a minimum of four weeks and up to eight weeks," Judah Cohen, a meteorologist with Atmospheric and Environmental Research, wrote in his blog on Monday.

Contributing: Ben Mutzabaugh

a close up of a map © Provided by USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Satellite Information Network, Inc.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Polar plunge: Record low temperatures roll into Midwest, East behind snowstorm

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