Freezing rain, sleet and snow will fall along the Southeast on Wednesday — and lead the way for a brutal winter storm that is expected to strengthen rapidly as it moves toward the Northeast.
It could be the first time in years that some portions of the Southeast have snow. Residents in Tallahassee, Florida, are expecting up to an inch of snow and ice on Wednesday, but the city has not had measurable snowfall since 1989, said CNN meteorologist Michael Guy.
Gov. Nathan Deal issued a state of emergency Tuesday for 28 Georgia counties in the coastal region ahead of the storm.
Authorities are urging people to stay home as millions of people in the eastern half of the US face below and near freezing temperatures Wednesday. Many schools canceled classes and government offices closed across the Florida panhandle and along the entire east coast shoreline.
Florida, southern Georgia and the coastal Carolinas will get a few inches of snow plus some ice before the storm turns into a monster storm, dropping heavy snowfall along the Mid-Atlantic coast and into the Northeast, forecasters say.
At least 11 people in the US have died since Tuesday morning in cold-related deaths, officials said.
A 27-year-old woman was found dead on the shore of Lake Winnebago after she left a New Year’s Eve gathering in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Authorities said Lindsey Klima stepped outside to smoke a cigarette and could have fallen at the shoreline before she succumbed to the cold, CNN affiliate WLUK reported.
Klima’s death is among five weather-related deaths in Wisconsin. Two other people have died in North Dakota and Missouri.
Four others have died in Texas, including two homeless people who died in Houston after being exposed to freezing conditions, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo tweeted.
The frigid temperatures led to temporary closures at water parks in Florida and prompted authorities to open dozens of emergency shelters.
In Pensacola, the weather turned fountains into ice sculptures and froze the top of an above-ground pool.
“My newest daughter started to cry saying that their pool was gone!” Alex Vieira told CNN.
Florida Department of Agriculture spokesman Aaron Keller said the cold weather could be endangering crops such as citrus, peppers and strawberries.
“The further south you go, the less cold tolerant the crops get,” Keller said. “If the cold weather predictions go below Orlando, it could be a problem.”
Forecasters warned about possible snow on the beach and high winds that could knock down power lines and palm trees coated in ice and snow, the NWS Charleston office said.
‘Bombogenesis’ threatens Northeast
So far, New York City has not gotten above freezing since Christmas Day and parts of Niagara Falls started to freeze Tuesday. And the weather is going to be even more miserable in the next days.
Wednesday into Thursday, CNN forecasters believe that “bombogenesis” will occur off the East Coast. This is a popular meteorological term that describes an area of low pressure in the mid-latitudes that drops more than 24 millibars, which are metric units of pressure, in 24 hours — creating what has been called on social media as “bomb cyclone.”
When bombogenesis happens, the low-pressure systems can create hurricane-force winds. Even though they are not technically hurricanes, many will call this a “winter hurricane.”
Most of the forecast models keep this low-pressure system offshore enough that the most substantial snow and strongest winds will remain out at sea, with the exception of New England, where 6-12 inches of snow could fall on Thursday, with winds gusting at 40 to 60 miles per hour.
The bombogenesis will help usher in another round of blustery single-digit temperatures to the northeast, dipping some temperatures.