Thousands of flights were canceled or delayed, some areas struggled under a foot of snow and more than 200 million people were forecast to freeze as a historic Arctic air mass swept across a wide swath of the nation Tuesday.
Freezing temperatures were reported from the Canadian border to South Texas. The freeze was moving east, headed for a swath from New England to Florida.
Chicagoans awoke to single digits, a few inches of snow and a forecast high of 20 degrees that would smash the city's record for the date by 8 degrees. That's after an American Eagle flight slid off a runway Monday while landing at O'Hare International Airport. No injuries were reported.
"The combination of air temperatures in the single digits and blustery northwest winds has sent wind chills below zero," the National Weather Service in Chicago warned. "Dress warmly if heading outside!"
It was a warmer 20 degrees in Detroit this morning, but areas around the city were blasted with a record November snow of almost 10 inches. In addition to messy roadways and several accidents reported by police, delays at Detroit Metropolitan Airport on Monday reached an average of 3 hours and 30 minutes.
Empire, Mich., reported 30 inches of snow. Bangor got more than two feet. In Wisconsin, Milwaukee, 9 degrees, set its third daily snowfall record in the past 12 days.
How often should I start my car and let it idle in cold weather? Answer: Don't.
The wintry event wasn't just a northern thing. In Texas, residents of Hebbronville, 60 miles from the Mexican border, woke up to freezing temperatures and snow. It was 9 degrees in Amarillo.
"For them, this morning was the worst case scenario," AccuWeather meteorologist Tyler Roys said Tuesday. "For others, Wednesday will be worse."
Wednesday will be colder for many from the Great Lakes to the Northeast and down all the way into Florida, Roys told USA TODAY.
"You are talking single digits in Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit," Roys said. "Atlanta will see the mid-20s. Low 20s in Birmingham, some other parts of Alabama. We will be challenging records everywhere."
More snow and cold were on the way. More than 200 million people will be freezing between Tuesday through Thursday, he said. The snow isn't done yet, either.
"The cold will continue to shift south and east into Wednesday, finally encompassing more than half of the country," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Tyler Roys.
More than 300 daily records could fall through Thursday, the weather service said. Houston's record low for Tuesday, 29 degrees, was set 113 years ago. The forecast for Tuesday called for 27 degrees. Nashville's record of 18 degrees for Tuesday, set in 1911, was imperiled by a forecast of 16 degrees.
"24-hour temperature change is incredible with 40°-50°F drops behind the brutal front," tweeted meteorologist Ryan Maue of BAM Weather. "Actual temperatures have fallen into the 20s as far south as Texas."
Weather forecast for the South
The cold will dip deep into the South. Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning, temperatures are forecast to dip into the 20s in Pensacola. The record low of 30 for Nov. 13 was set in 1911.
"The big story is how cold it's going to be," said Cody Lindsey, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "And with the gusty winds during the day, it will definitely feel a little colder than it actually is."
The high Tuesday in Dallas was forecast for 41 degrees - 27 degrees below average for the date. Monday's high in Brownsville, Texas, was forecast for 86 degrees - more than double Tuesday's forecast high of 40.
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East Coast weather
By Wednesday, the coldest temperatures will drift east. Cities from Boston to Washington will challenge record lows for the date.
Snow will add to the wintry feel across the interior Northeast on Tuesday and Wednesday. Rochester, New York, already had more than 8 inches of snow late Monday, smashing the day's record by 3 inches, according to the Weather Service.
"We expect a swath of higher snowfall totals from central New York to northern Maine, where accumulations could climb into the double digits," AccuWeather meteorologist Courtney Travis said.
Contributing: Victoria E. Freile, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle; Amy Huschka and Omar Abdel-Baqui, Detroit Free Press; Joe Taschler, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Annie Blanks, Pensacola News Journal
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Weather forecast: Arctic blast, snow hits 200M from Chicago to Florida