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Hopes for a Warm-Up Remain Frozen as Arctic Air Parks Over U.S.

Bitter Cold Grips Two-Thirds of the Country 3:00

Like an unwanted Thanksgiving guest, the premature winter weather freezing much of the country is settling in for a long, uncomfortable visit as a massive area of arctic high pressure remains blocked over the U.S. Unseasonably cold temperatures as much as 40 degrees below normal are again forecast for much of the country Friday — including the Deep South, where overnight freeze warnings were issued in several states.

Here's how strange the weather has been this week: Temperatures in northern Alaska were warmer Thursday than they were in much of the central and northern Plains. Barrow, which is located above the Arctic Circle, had a high of 36 degrees.

The system first socked the Upper Plains and the Midwest early in the week, but by Thursday afternoon it had expanded from coast to coast. Heavy snow and strong winds were forecast through Friday from the Pacific Northwest to the northern Rocky Mountains, the National Weather Service said. More than 8 inches of snow could fall on parts of Oregon, forecasters said, while Denver remained shut in by temperatures that hit minus-14 on Thursday — with the lowest wind chill recorded at minus-32 degrees.

More than a month before the official start of winter, community and homeless shelters are already starting to fill up in Mesa County, Colorado. "This is the first cold snap of the year, so we've had a lot of people coming in today looking for coats and for housing," Beverly Lampley, director of development for Grand Valley Catholic Outreach, told NBC station KKCO of Grand Junction. "Now it becomes an emergency to them."

Back in the Midwest, lake effect snow pounded Michigan and Ohio. Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, woke up Thursday to more than a foot of fresh snow, while residents of Painesville, Ohio, got to experience the oddity that's called thundersnow. Several more inches were forecast through Saturday morning.

Snowbirds who begin flocking to the South this time of year aren't getting away with it. Lows in Augusta, Georgia, are forecast to drop into the 20s on Friday — 10 degrees colder than they were Thursday and 30 degrees chillier than they were as recently as Wednesday. All but two parishes in Louisiana, meanwhile, were under hard freeze warnings Thursday night.

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