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November-like chill places 100 million people under frost and freeze alerts

The coldest air since the spring is bringing a wintry wake-up call to most of the country this week, producing record-shattering snow and low temperatures.

More than 100 million people woke up Wednesday under frost advisories, freeze watches and warnings on what was expected to be the coldest morning of the week for the South and the coldest temperatures for most since the spring.

Due to the cold air mass plunging south before expanding east, southern cities actually woke up colder than northern cities. Dallas was colder than Boston, and Atlanta was colder than Cleveland.

For the first time on record, Birmingham, Alabama, hit 32 degrees before Billings, Montana, beating that notoriously cold city to the first official freeze of the season.

New York City's Central Park dipped to 42 degrees, the coldest temperature since April 29, and Charlotte's 30-degree reading set its fifth earliest freeze on record.

Most of the cold alerts expire by midmorning Wednesday, but some will linger through Thursday morning, especially across the Ohio Valley, the Gulf Coast and the Southeast coast.

Thanks to temperatures 10 to 20 degrees below average, approximately 50 record lows were forecast to break Wednesday morning. High temperatures Wednesday are also expected to remain below average, leading to a chilly afternoon feeling more like November than mid-October.

This cold air mass was also responsible for the first snow of the season across the Great Lakes and the Midwest. For many locations, the early season snow was also record-setting.

There were 18 inches in Marquette, Michigan, shattering its record for the highest two-day snow in the month of October. The city typically averages just more than 5 inches of snow in October.

The snow that fell in Madison, Wisconsin, this week was its earliest first snow in more than 30 years. The city's average first measurable snowfall is Nov. 11.

While not record-setting, add Chicago to the list of places that recorded the first measurable snow of the season this week.

This cold snap will be short-lived, with temperatures expected to rebound beginning Friday and lasting into next week. That will mean back to the 80s for highs across Texas, with afternoons soaring into the 70s for cities in the mid-Atlantic like Washington.