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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Halloween cold snap over Lower 48 states is setting records

Inflatable Halloween decorations fill a front yard on October 31, 2023 near the corner of Ferrall Street and Grave Avenue in Spokane.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
By Ian Livingston Washington Post

The first major cold snap of the winter sent temperatures 20 to 30 degrees below average across nearly the entire Lower 48 on this Halloween. It brought the first freezing nights of the season to many in the eastern U.S.

About 135 million Americans were under frost or freeze alerts as Tuesday began, with the growing season coming to an abrupt end even into the Deep South. Freeze warnings for Wednesday morning were in effect from Texas to southwest Virginia.

Dozens of record lows were predicted from Texas to Maine through Thursday after several were set Tuesday morning in the Great Plains. Temperatures even plummeted below zero in North Dakota on Tuesday morning.

This Arctic intrusion will begin to fade away later this week.

A taste of winter

Unusually cold weather that dropped from Canada late last week has now overtaken most of the country. Temperatures are below seasonal norms pretty much everywhere except the West Coast, where the cold has already begun to depart, and Florida, where the chill will trickle in Wednesday.

Tuesday’s highs were forecast to reach the 20s from the Dakotas into northwest Minnesota, with highs in the low 30s in the central Plains, Iowa and the western Great Lakes. Even into the Oklahoma City area, highs were expected to reach only into the 40s.

In some spots, precipitation accompanied the cold air, making it look more like Christmas than the year’s spookiest day.

“(I)t’s the most widespread Lower 48 snow cover for any #Halloween in the last 20 years,” wrote meteorologist Jonathan Erdman on X, formerly Twitter.

The National Weather Service reported that it was the snowiest Halloween on record in Glasgow, Montana, with four inches on the ground. Much of northern and central Rocky Mountains, including the Denver area, North Dakota and northern Maine also awakened to a white Halloween.

Additional snow fell Tuesday in parts of the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes; Minneapolis posted a record Halloween snowfall of two inches.

Record cold spreads south and east

Several record lows for Oct. 31 were set early Tuesday, including in Dickinson, North Dakota,where it was 2 below; in Lawton, Oklahoma, where it was in the mid-20s; and in Carbondale, Illinois, where it dipped into the upper 20s.

Central states, including in Kansas where maximum temperatures would only reach the upper 30s Tuesday, likely experienced record cold later in the day.

Records will become even more numerous Wednesday and Thursday as the coldest air shifts east.

Several dozen record lows may be set Wednesday morning from southwest Texas into eastern Kansas and then across Missouri and Arkansas before sweeping eastward toward the western side of the Appalachians. Locations that could set record lows include Dallas around 32 degrees, Oklahoma City with mid-20s, Kansas City around 20 and Nashville in the upper 20s.

On Wednesday afternoon, more than a dozen cities could see record cold highs from the Carolinas to Maine.

By Thursday morning, record lows could be widespread from the northern Gulf Coast through the Southeast and into the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Temperatures in much of this zone will fall to between the mid-20s and freezing. Downtown Washington and New York City may stay just above freezing, but not by much.

By the end of the workweek and into the weekend, warmer air is expected to overtake much of the Lower 48, except around the north central United States. The warm-up may also be somewhat short-lived in the Northeast, with chillier than usual air potentially returning by the middle of next week.