Temperatures near zero chilled the upper Midwest and snow fell Saturday from the Great Lakes to the northern Atlantic Coast for the first day of winter, but warm air pushed into the northern and central Plains.
Midday temperatures were still around zero over parts of Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota, and readings were generally in the teens and single numbers across the upper Mississippi Valley, the Great Lakes and the Ohio Valley.
But a warm front pushing across eastern sections of the northern and central Plains brought temporary relief from the arctic cold that has shattered record lows nationwide since Monday, the National Weather Service said.
Temperatures Saturday registered in the 30s and 40s across much of the northern and central Plains, and in the 50s and 60s in the southern Plains.
The weather on winter's first day seemed especially mild after a wintry fall that saw a freak snowstorm paralyze Seattle and the first measurable snow in Phoenix since 1939.
"With all these storms so far, it makes that opening day something of a joke," said Harry Gordon of the National Weather Service. Gordon said Northern states often get an early winter, but this year the cold weather dipped much farther south.
"It's just plain unusual, that's all," he said.
Arctic air hanging over the eastern half of the country broke records in at least seven cities Saturday. It was 21 degrees in Birmingham, Ala.; 18 below in Green Bay, Wis.; and 31 above in Apalachicola, Fla. Spencer, Iowa, shivered at a record 22 below, the lowest reading nationwide. Ames, Iowa, also registered 22 below.
Snow fell across much of the Great Lakes region Saturday and in parts of the upper Ohio Valley and northern Atlantic Coast region.