An Arctic cold front is crashing east, bringing falling temperatures and below-zero lows to parts of the Northern Tier and Upper Midwest. It's the first in a pair of abrasive cold pockets that will target the Northern Plains and Great Lakes, keeping places like Minneapolis in the icebox for much of mid-December.
The leading edge of the cold is barreling across the country and is poised to drop temperatures by as much as 25 degrees all the way to the East Coast by midweek. A brief chill will even make it down to the Deep South, making for dry, frigid nights perhaps even to the Gulf Coast.
The zone from northeast Montana through the Dakotas to northern Wisconsin will experience the brunt of the cold the first half of this week.
The Arctic front brought snow to Minneapolis Monday morning as the temperature dropped 10 degrees in just two hours, from 30 to 20. By Monday evening, temperatures in the Twin Cities may stand at only ten degrees with overnight lows predicted to tumble to minus-4.
The cold turns more severe Tuesday. The high temperature is only forecast at 4 degrees, while lows Tuesday night may plummet to near minus-10. After another chilly day Wednesday, some moderation is likely Thursday before the next Arctic air mass settles in next week.
The cold arrived early Monday morning in Bismarck, North Dakota, where crashing temperatures overnight brought the mercury down to minus-4 just before sunrise Monday morning. Lows Monday night will fall to minus-11 degrees, an even crueler minus-12 forecast early Wednesday morning.
Temperatures over the Dakotas will finally recover into the lower 30s by Friday, but there's a chance the city doesn't make it above freezing before the next cold shot approaches over the weekend. That yields a decent possibility that Bismarck goes an entire week or more without hitting freezing.
Farther east, Chicago will flirt with the edge of the cold blast. Highs near 50 Monday will be slashed to the mid-20s Tuesday, with several chilly days before some pleasant moderation Friday.
Meanwhile to the south, the Arctic front was heralded by a burst of briefly heavy snow in Omaha. A prelude of precipitation preceded the front, visibility dipping to below a half-mile as the potent squalls moved through. Temperatures were quickly falling as colder air surged into the region, the temperature falling from 36 degrees at 5 a.m. to 17 degrees before 8 a.m. Bitter winds also gusted to 45 mph.
That abrupt temperature drop will be the theme with this cold front. Kansas City was approaching 50 degrees Monday morning, but will likely fall below 30 by suppertime.
In Memphis, the change is even more hostile - after a forecast high near 70 today, snow is in the cards overnight as the Arctic front flips the rain to wintry precipitation. Lows in the middle 30s are possible, rising only a degree or two to a predicted high near 37 Tuesday.
Nashville could also wind up with a touch of snow or winter slop, albeit delayed until Tuesday afternoon just before precipitation winds to a close.
In Alabama, the forecast is wet instead of white, but the temperature stop will still leave folks shivering. Tuesday's anticipated high temperature of 63 degrees may occur before the sun even comes up, the warmth declining throughout the day. Temperatures will drop into the 40s by the end of the workday, with middle 30s in the cards overnight into Wednesday morning. Rain will fall intermittently throughout the day.
Any precipitation should avoid more northerly places like Indianapolis or Columbus, Ohio, where the frolicking front's only fanfare comes in the form of a 20-degree cool-down between now and this time Tuesday. But for a stretch of real estate along and east of the Appalachians, that wave of precipitation riding up from the south will meet the encroaching cold, possibly dusting a few places with a quick-hitting backlash of snow.
It's a tough call in the nation's capital, where Washington D.C. could see a few flakes fly as precipitation winds to a close Wednesday morning. A light slushy accumulation is possible northwest of town.
Ahead of the cold front, temperatures are already spiking - with 60s possible in D.C. Tuesday and 70 possible in places like Raleigh or Richmond. Scouring out that warmth will take some time, making seeing any snow a challenge for places near the Mason-Dixon line.
A couple inches of snow is a safer bet in places like New York City or Boston on Wednesday. For much of the nation, moderation is expected over the weekend before the next blast of anomalous cold arrives in the Northern Tier early next week.
This article was written by Matthew Cappucci, a reporter for The Washington Post.