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Icy air ahead as winter storm threatens to hit half the country

Bitterly cold temperatures are freezing nearly half the nation, including Florida, where wind chills are barely topping out in the 20s and 30s.

Bitter cold spread across parts of the United States on Tuesday, including Florida, with wind chills expected in the 20s to the 40s in the South through Wednesday.

Temperatures in the Southeast will be 5 to 15 degrees below average with some gradual warming over the next few days.

Below average temperatures, however, will remain across Texas and Oklahoma and the lower Mississippi Valley as a major storm begins to move through.

By Thursday, the Midwest, the North and the Southeast will have returned to average or even a bit above.

The warm-up comes as a result of a large system bringing a combination of rain, sleet, snow and ice to nearly half the country.

Drenching rain across the South and the Southeast will begin Wednesday, with a mix of freezing rain, sleet and snow in the Midwest.

As the storm continues east, the wintry mix will cause travel delays and potentially dangerous conditions across the Upper Midwest. By the end of the week, heavy rain will fall from Washington to New York.