Winterlike cold blast causes South to shiver
Unseasonably cold air will plunge into the South, ushering in the lowest temperature readings since last winter — and even some record-challenging cold. The blast of wintry air will follow a weather system that triggered stormy weather in the region Sunday and Monday. AccuWeather meteorologists expect it to become cold enough in some locations for an unusually early freeze.
“Behind the potent storm will be a rush of cold, Arctic air that will infiltrate as far south as the central Gulf Coast and part of the Florida Peninsula,” said AccuWeather Meteorologist Nicole LoBiondo.
The cold air was accompanied by some snowflakes in Tennessee, northern Mississippi, northern Alabama, northern Georgia and western North Carolina on Monday afternoon, coating the ground in some areas.
The cold plunge was already quite noticeable in portions of Texas and Oklahoma Monday morning. Oklahoma City, Dallas and Houston are just a few cities that have already dipped to their lowest mark since last spring as the cold air took hold early Monday.
“As cold air dives southward, temperatures will be well below average to the Gulf Coast and even northern Mexico into Tuesday,” noted AccuWeather Meteorologist Derek Witt.
By Monday night, the full effects of the cold air will be felt and over a much larger area. A freeze (32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower) is likely as far south as parts the Interstate 10 corridor. In many areas, the timing of the cold will be right on par with when the first freeze of the season normally occurs.
San Antonio, Texas, averages its first freeze on Nov. 27. However, with a forecast low of 30 degrees on Monday night, the city will approach its daily record low. The old record low is 26 degrees, so the frosty air may fall just short of tying or breaking the record.
Little Rock, Arkansas, is another city that had yet to fall to or below freezing. As of 3 A.M. on Tuesday morning, the mercury had plunged to 26 degrees, making it a hard freeze. A hard freeze is typically defined by a temperature at, or below 28 degrees. In addition, Tuesday morning’s low will come close to the record low of 20 degrees.
This first freeze was unusually late, as it normally occurs around Nov. 13, and approached record territory for the latest first freeze of the season on record. In 1998, the city did not fall below freezing until Dec. 9.
On Tuesday and Tuesday night, the core of the cold will shift farther to the east. The forecast low of 31 degrees in Charleston, South Carolina, will be right around its typical first freeze date of Nov. 30. The low will fall off a cliff to 31 degrees in Savannah, Georgia, a city that experiences its first freeze on average on Nov. 27.
Farther south, the first freeze will arrive earlier than usual. In Jacksonville, Florida, the forecast low on Tuesday night is 28 degrees, nearly two weeks earlier than the average first freeze date. In addition, it has been almost a year — Jan. 22 — since a freezing temperature was recorded.
Although a freeze is not expected in the central counties of the Florida Peninsula, temperatures will be dipping well below normal. In Orlando, the low of 37 degrees on Tuesday night is well below the normal of 55. Tampa will also be almost 20 degrees below normal, with a forecast of 50 versus the normal of 57. Even Miami will be chilly by its standards, with a forecast low of 51, compared to the normal low temperature of 67. Despite the unusual early December chill, records will not be in contention.
Bitter conditions aren’t just expected during the night as daytime temperatures will be quite low, too. In fact, some people who live around the southern Appalachians will witness not only their first snowflakes of the season, but also up to a few inches of snow that will accumulate over the ridges.
Just to the west, snowflakes flew around Nashville, Tennessee, on Monday, but accumulating snow generally only occurred on grassy and non-paved surfaces.
Temperatures are expected to return closer to normal across the South on Wednesday and Thursday.