CHICAGO Oklahoma recorded its coldest temperature in state history on Thursday morning and records fell in cities in Missouri and Texas as a deep freeze gripped most of the nation.
Nowata, Oklahoma in the northeast part of the state recorded 31 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. The previous lowest temperature in state history in Oklahoma was 27 degrees below zero in 1930 and 1905, said Gary McManus, associate state climatologist with the Oklahoma Climatological Survey.
The cold came on top of two major snow falls, one Tuesday night, which brought up to 20 inches of snow in parts of the state, and one during last week's blizzard, which brought 8 to 20 inches.
"We just had a very cold arctic air mass and a heavy snow pack and that allowed the temperatures to plummet when the wind died down," said McManus. "We got much colder temperatures than anyone thought would occur."
Cold temperature records which have stood for nearly 80 years also fell across the Plains Thursday morning, including Springfield, Missouri and Corpus Christi, Texas, according to weather.com.
But states hit by the cold are expecting a thaw soon. McManus said temperatures in Oklahoma should rise to the 60s over the weekend and the 70s next week.
In the Midwest, Grand Forks, North Dakota will see a rise from 4 degrees Thursday to 20 degrees Friday, while Milwaukee will see a rise over the same period from 12 degrees to 26 degrees, said National Weather Service spokesman Pat Slattery.
There could be some light lake effect snow in the Great Lakes area, with a few spots in northern and western Michigan getting up to six inches, Slattery said.
The South is coping with an unusual cover of snow and cold, as up to two inches of snow fell in eastern North Carolina, central South Carolina and east-central Georgia Thursday morning, according to weather.com.
Nashville-area highways were still clogged Thursday with abandoned vehicles, after a snowy commute Wednesday night that took some commuters up to six hours.
The majority of the Northeast is experiencing dry and cold weather, with highs ranging from the 10s and lower 20s in northern New England, upstate New York and western Pennsylvania, according to weather.com. A band of cold air blowing across Lake Ontario could produce snow across western New York, the web site said.
(Writing by Mary Wisniewski, with reporting by Tim Ghianni, editing by Greg McCune)