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Is fall dead? Is this a blue norther? And other questions answered about the Arctic blast

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 11/11/2019 Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
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The blast of record-breaking Arctic air that's charging across the country will bring the growing season to a screeching halt in much of the southern and eastern U.S. this week.

Freeze watches have been posted as far south as the Panhandle of Florida, where Pensacola should see a low temperature of 31 degrees by early Wednesday morning. "Conditions can kill crops, new growth and sensitive vegetation," the National Weather Service in Mobile, Alabama, warned.

The strong winds and cold temperatures will also hasten the end of the prime fall foliage season in many locations.

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By Wednesday morning, below-freezing temperatures are forecast as far south as the central Texas coast. "This will make it feel like in the middle of winter rather than November for much of the eastern two-thirds of the country for the next few days," the National Weather Service said. 

Slideshow by photo services 

How long will the cold blast last?

Although the growing season will soon be over in many areas – and leaves are flying off the trees – fall isn't quite dead yet. "Most of the country will go back toward autumn-like weather by the end of the week." said Tyler Roys, AccuWeather meteorologist. "For the northern Plains (and) New England, the cold could last into next week."

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How far south will snow fall? 

Light snow or ice is forecast in portions of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama through the day on Monday and into Tuesday. The National Weather Service in Huntsville, Alabama, said "rain will briefly transition to a wintry mix of snow and sleet during the predawn hours on Tuesday." But little to no accumulation is expected. 

As for accumulating snow, parts of eastern Kentucky, western Virginia and much of West Virginia could see up to 3 inches of snow, the weather service reported.

Where will it snow the most?

The heaviest amounts of snow are likely in the upper Midwest, Northeast and New England. Six to 12 inches of snow with locally higher amounts is forecast for northern New York and northern Vermont by Wednesday morning, according to the weather service.

Farther west, in portions of Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio and western New York, lake-effect snowfall is likely downwind of the Great Lakes where locally more than a foot can be expected.

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Where will it get the coldest?

The northern Plains, as usual, is seeing the worst of the cold. After single-digit highs on Monday, wind chill temperatures in the Dakotas will drop below zero on Tuesday morning.  

Is this a 'blue norther'?

With temperatures dropping 40 degrees from Monday to Tuesday in a few locations, some folks are calling the Arctic blast a "blue norther," which is defined as "a strong cold front marked by a sudden and drastic decrease in temperature," according to AccuWeather. It often brings with it precipitation, followed by blue skies and much colder weather, the Texas State Historical Association said.

A blue norther can travel from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico in less than two days. Though Texans supposedly claim blue northers as their own, the weather pattern can occur in other places across the central U.S.

Why is it called a blue norther? One explanation is that it appears to come out of the Panhandle "under a blue-black sky," the Texas State Historical Association said. Another possibility is that's what the sky looks like after the front has passed.

Contributing: John Bacon, USA TODAY

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Is fall dead? Is this a blue norther? And other questions answered about the Arctic blast

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