The brief January thaw is over.
A potent winter storm will bring rain, ice and snow to portions of the southern and eastern United States over the next two days, which will be followed by another ferocious blast of bitterly cold Arctic air.
Winter weather warnings and advisories were in place Friday all the way from northern Mississippi to northern Maine.
Parts of Kentucky and Tennessee were coated with sleet and ice early Friday, forcing schools to close as forecasters predicted the storm would deliver a second punch with snow.
Meanwhile, parts of Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama braced for another round of winter weather.
The Weather Channel has named the storm Winter Storm Hunter. No other private companies, nor the National Weather Service, use this name.
A strong cold front, located between the Mississippi River and the Appalachians Friday morning, will continue to sweep east and eventually clear the entire East Coast by Saturday afternoon, the weather service said.
Where the front has already passed, temperatures were well below zero across much of the northern Plains and upper Midwest Friday morning. Some locations in North Dakota dropped to 31 degrees below zero.
Before the front passes, unusually warm temperatures and heavy rain caused flooding. Over 50 reports of flooding came in Friday morning from parts of West Virginia, Ohio, western Pennsylvania and New York state, including the Buffalo and Pittsburgh metro areas, Weather.com said.
A sharp transition to colder temperatures is expected behind the cold front, with 24-hour temperature drops of 20 to 40 degrees expected, greatest across northern locations, the weather service said.
“After reaching the 50s and 60s along the Interstate 95 corridor late this week, high temperatures will be held in the 20s and 30s by late this weekend into next week,” said AccuWeather meteorologist Kyle Elliott.
The transition to colder temperatures will occur along with rain, which will change over to freezing rain, sleet and eventually snow for many from the Tennessee and Ohio valleys into interior sections of the Mid-Atlantic region and Northeast Friday night.
Locations along and west of I-95 from the mid-Atlantic to New England will likely see some sort of frozen precipitation from this storm system.
The heaviest snow is expected from northwestern Pennsylvania into far northern New York, where upwards of a foot of new snow is expected by Saturday morning.
The cold weather will stick around through much of next week, Weather.com said. This will include the chance for another winter storm in the Northeast on Tuesday.
However, long-term forecast guidance suggests that after we get past this cold snap, a milder temperature regime will become established from the Plains to the East Coast as we head into the final one-third of January.
Contributing: The Associated Press