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Arctic air sends temperatures plummeting across much of US

A full two-thirds of the country was in the grips of a blast of cold Arctic air Wednesday with temperatures falling to some of the lowest marks in years and wind chills plummeting to dangerously low levels.

The nation’s capital is experiencing what could be its coldest stretch in almost 10 years, according to NBC Washington’s Chief Meteorologist Doug Kammerer, and brutally cold weather and snow continued to hit much of the Northeast and Great Lakes area.

In the D.C. area Wednesday morning, temperatures were between 16 and 21 degrees with single-digit wind chills, according to the National Weather Service. 

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Elsewhere in the Northeast and New England, the coldest air in two years has blanketed the area with subzero wind chills moving in, a stark contrast from the mild weather residents had been experiencing this winter.

In Maine, the arctic air mass settling over the state caused temperatures to drop nearly 75 degrees in one week – following record highs on Monday -- the Bangor Daily News reported.

Meanwhile the National Weather Service has issued freeze warnings Wednesday for as far south as Florida.

And in the Midwest Wednesday, very cold highs ranging from 10 degrees below zero to five degrees above were forecast from North Dakota to northern Wisconsin.

Temperatures are expected to linger in the mid-20s for the rest of the week, and a moderation of temperatures wouldn’t come until early next week.

Related: Chicago fire fight hampered by ice

The bitter weather has also brought with it some “impressive” snowfalls, according to

The airport in Erie, Pa., saw 16.3 inches of snow fall at the airport on Monday – the snowiest day there since Nov. 29, 1979, and making it snowiest January day on record. Other parts of the city saw up to 24 inches.

In New York state, Oswego County got up to 18 inches of snow Sunday through Monday morning, while 19 inches fell in Pulaski in the 24 hours to 9 a.m. Tuesday and Ripley got 24.8 inches over the two days to Tuesday morning.

And parts of Michigan saw 10 inches of snow in the 48 hours ending Tuesday morning. Conditions were milder in other parts of the U.S. with temperatures expected to hit the 30s and 40s from western Nebraska to southern Kansas, and record highs are predicted in the Western U.S.