Record cold, heavy snow grips much of the US, with more on the way

Wintry weather is only getting started

(CNN) - Across the United States, temperature records are falling faster than this week's snowflakes in Erie, Pennsylvania, and it's only going to get worse.

From Portland, Maine, to Danville, Virginia, temperatures fell overnight Friday to lows not seen in decades. It was a measly 8 degrees Fahrenheit in Worcester, Massachusetts, breaking a record that had stood since 1903.

"Just grab everything in your closet and put it on," said CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar. "That's the best thing I can tell you. Everything you own, just layer up."

The bone-chilling cold even managed to freeze portions of the monstrous Niagara Falls, turning the attraction into a frozen, sparkling paradise.

Visiting tourists will have to continue to battle low temperatures -- Sunday's high for the area is 5 degrees Fahrenheit, according to CNN meteorologist Gene Norman, with a wind chill of minus 11, or maybe minus 14.

If the present forecast holds true, this will be the third-coldest New Year's Eve ball drop in New York's Times Square since the event started in 1907, according to the National Weather Service. The expected low will be 8 degrees, with a wind chill between minus 10 and zero, forecasters say.

In Duluth, Minnesota, it felt like it was minus 44 degrees Saturday morning.

"It's so cold, people can't even walk their dogs without risking frostbite," said CNN meteorologist Jennifer Varian.

About 70 million people, mainly in the Northeast and northern Plains, were under a wind chill alert Saturday morning. That's up from an already whopping 30 million a day earlier.

It felt like it was minus 38 in Minneapolis, minus 12 in Chicago and minus 6 in Boston, but it's not just the north that's grappling with the cold.

Temperatures will also be unusually low as far south as Texas and Georgia.

Mississippi and Alabama will see especially low temperatures, Norman said.

Between Saturday night and Sunday morning, he said, there's a "good chance" for a little ice accumulation in some Southern states.

"Highs will only be in the 20s for central Mississippi, Alabama, even parts of Georgia," Norman said. "There may be single digits through the teens in morning lows in those same places."

"When we get into single digits -- teens," Norman added, "it's a serious impact, because people aren't used to it. They're not ready for it."

More records are expected to topple in the coming days -- as many as 25 new lows could be set on New Year's Day, the National Weather Service says.

And Erie? After being slammed with more than five feet of snow this week, the city could be in for even more. Lake-effect snow is expected to continue in the area, from Rochester, New York, to Cleveland.

The good news for Erie: The lake may be frozen over by the end of next week, which will cut off the lake-effect snow.

But if you're looking to escape the cold, you should head to Miami. As Norman points out, if you were to fly from Minneapolis to Miami, you would experience a 100-degree temperature change.


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