Much of US braces for harsh cold weekend weather ahead of spring; another atmospheric river headed for California
Wind chills could reach below 30 degrees in parts of the Midwest and a late-season freeze threatens early crops in the South
It will be bitterly cold in much of the U.S. this weekend, but spring is just around the corner.
On Saturday, arctic cold will blast the upper Midwest from the Dakotas and Minnesota down to Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin, as well as parts of Montana and Wyoming.
Frigid temperatures will target the East and the South on Sunday, while the 12th atmospheric river this season will start moving into California.
Here's what you need to know about this weekend's weather:
It'll be so cold and windy in parts of the Midwest on Saturday that the wind chill could get down to 30 degrees below zero, said Bob Larson, senior meteorologist at AccuWeather.
The coldest places will be the Dakotas and western and northern Minnesota, he said, with wind chills between negative 10 and 30.
"That's harsh cold you usually find in January, not a few days from the start of spring," he said. "That is pretty harsh for so late in the season."
Heavy lake-effect snow is also expected to hit the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley this weekend.
The spring equinox is set for 5:24 p.m. EDT on Monday.
Temperatures and winds will ease up in the region on Sunday.
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The cold expected to impact the Midwest starts moving east on Saturday night, bringing possible lake effect snow and squalls across parts of Michigan, northern Ohio, Indiana, northwest Pennsylvania and western New York.
Snow is expected to impact parts of the region, with up to six inches expected from Erie, Pennsylvania, to Buffalo and outside of Rochester, New York.
Winds could gust as high as 45 mph.
"For so late in the season, it is quite impressive," Larson said.
The new season does bring something to look forward to relatively fast, he said.
"Much of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic beyond this weekend cold snap could see mild, tranquil, storm-free weather the first few days of spring," Larson said.
Much of the South can expect a late-season freeze, with northern Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, northern Louisiana, northern-central Mississippi, and northern Georgia, including Atlanta, among areas likely affected.
Sub-freezing temperatures will affect the region Saturday night and into Sunday morning, threatening early crops and gardens, Larson said.
The National Weather Service has issued several freeze watches for that time period throughout the region, saying temperatures could be as low as the high 20s.
California to get 12th atmospheric river storm
Another atmospheric river will begin affecting Southern California on Sunday night, with the storm continuing through the middle of next week.
The worst of the storm is expected Tuesday into Wednesday, with several inches of rain expected at lower elevations and snow in the mountains.
Atmospheric river: The weather phenomenon extends thousands of miles from the tropics to the western U.S.
Meanwhile Florida, which is experiencing an unusually dry winter, will get some much-needed rain this weekend.
Widespread rains and scattered thunderstorms are expected through much of the state.
The thunderstorms aren't expected to be severe.
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Contributing: Christine Fernando, USA TODAY