The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

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December 19, 2013

Arctic blast has states in its icy grip

PRINCETON, N.J. — A harsh blast of Arctic air, accompanied by snow, sleet, and freezing rain in many areas, has solidified its grip on more than half of the lower 48 states, with winter weather watches and warnings in effect for about two dozen states, from the California coastline to Minnesota. The cold air outbreak is one of the most severe to occur in early December in several years, possibly since the late 1990s.

So far, more than 2 feet of snow has fallen in Minnesota, with 1-2 feet falling in the mountains of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming. Minnesota Public Radio meteorologist Paul Huttner said the snow totals in northern Minnesota could be “epic,” with more than 3 feet expected.

In California’s Central Valley, a vital agricultural region for the U.S., farmers were taking steps to protect crops from multiple nights with low temperatures in the low to mid-20s.

Wind-chill advisories and warnings were in effect in many areas that are used to cold weather, including northern Montana. “The … Arctic intrusion has brought temperatures to dangerously low values, particularly across the Northern Rockies and Northern Plains,” the National Weather Service said in an online discussion.

Wind-chill values, which include the combination of air temperature and wind speed and the associated effects on the human body, are expected to dip as low as minus-40°F in those areas, the NWS said. While those temperatures are considered to be dangerously cold, they are not unprecedented for this time of year in the northern Plains.

As of Wednesday morning, an Arctic cold front separating the bone-chilling cold from milder-than-average temperatures was draped from the Desert Southeast to the Lower Great Lakes, and several waves of low pressure were moving along it, producing snow from the Colorado Rockies to northern Minnesota.

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