Winter storm watches, warnings and advisories stretched literally from coast to coast Monday, affecting 22 states from Washington to New Jersey, as a bitter barrage of icy air began moving east with some of the coldest temperatures so far this winter.
The second arctic blast in a week hit the Upper Plains on Monday night on its way to the Northeast by Thursday. Meanwhile, a winter storm that formed Sunday in the Northwest was forecast to dump snow along a 2,000-mile-long corridor from Montana to Ohio through Tuesday, having already blanketed Columbia Falls, Montana, with 25.8 inches by Monday afternoon.
Snowfall arched over an area from Des Moines, Iowa, through Chicago and south to Cincinnati on Monday night. At the same time, temperatures were creeping below zero across the region, reaching a low of minus-7 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
"People need to be careful because of the frostbite threat," said Kevin Roth, lead meteorologist at The Weather Channel. "It's going to be bitter. Kids heading out to the school bus need to make sure they are wrapped up warm and have their skin covered up. It will be the coldest weather most people have experienced this winter."
The snow is coming from an Alberta clipper — a fast-moving low-pressure system swooping down from Canada. "Normally these systems will drop a quick inch or two, just in and out, nobody gets hurt," said Ari Sarsalari, a forecaster for The Weather Channel.
"[But] this one's actually got a little bit more of a kick to it," he said Monday night. "Places like Chicago could see up to 6 inches of snow, and that's definitely significant."
Flights were being canceled thick and fast at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, topping 225 by Monday night, with almost 800 seeing significant delays, the aviation tracking site Flightaware reported.
As the storm system moves east Tuesday, it should drop only a few inches of snow on much of the Northeast, although big cities along the Great Lakes could get a foot or more of lake effect snow, the National Weather Service said. But because it's moving so quickly, roads will go from simply wet to snow-covered in a matter of minutes, causing significant travel problems throughout the region, it said.